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As South Africa continues on its journey to a greener economy, energy experts, who gathered at this year’s Windaba conference, predict that our future energy mix is likely to include dispatchable power, in the form of hybrid systems This follows the DMRE’s launch of its technology agnostic Risk Mitigation Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (RMI4P) last year, resulting in the renewable energy sector stepping in to develop hybrid energy systems, characterised by a mix of Wind, Solar PV, battery energy storage systems (BESS) and dispatchable generation (DG).
“Reliable, affordable and dispatchable – simply put, hybrid renewable energy systems have the potential to provide efficiency in a decarbonised energy mix,” said Mercia Grimbeek, Chair of SAWEA.
The ideal hybrid site comprises several factors such as wind and solar resources and their complementarity, suitable topography, grid proximity and capacity, accessibility, as well as limited environmental and permitting constraints. Some developers, however, report over thirty criteria, when undertaking a site selection, but agree that the aforementioned remain the key drivers.
In the same way that the development of new wind power projects are being hampered by limited grid capacity, so are hybrid project sites, especially in the Northern Cape Province. The country’s power utility, Eskom, last month indicated that this area, which currently stands as the renewable energy hub of South Africa, both for its wind and solar PV facilities, has exhausted its grid capacity.
Looking specifically at the role wind power plays in hybrid facilities, as a technology, it is very compatible with solar PV. This is due to solar peak day-time generation and wind peak predominantly later in the day and at night. Research and historical data demonstrate that these two renewable sources of energy are naturally complementary and key to delivering cost effective hybrid energy systems.
The vast and varied terrain and renewable power sources present opportunities to develop new renewable energy project hubs. So, even though in the North West and Free State there is ample sun, but less wind, other areas have the converse. Two geographic locations, however, stand out, namely the Eastern Cape and Western Cape, which are fortunate to have sites where sufficient wind and solar PV resources overlap, making them ideal hybrid energy locations. Consider too that hybrid facilities can also operate as virtual facilities utilizing the best wind resource and best solar resource locations, although not co-located, to deliver a solution through wheeling via the Eskom network.