May is National Energy Month in South Africa and, as the renewable energy sector commemorates a decade of clean power in the country, industry organisation the South Africa Wind Energy Association (SAWEA) has noted the contribution the country’s operational wind farms are making.
“Energy Month is an opportune time to consider the impact that wind power has had over the last decade in South Africa and the sector’s achievements,” says SAWEA CEO Ntombifuthi Ntuli.
To date, 27 wind farms have successfully been connected to the national grid, increasing installed wind power capacity to almost 2 500 MW, SAWEA indicates.
There are seven more projects in the final stages of construction, which should bring additional capacity of 870 MW onto the grid by the end of this year, thereby contributing even further to resolving the power crisis, the organisation acclaims.
The first wind project became operational on February 1, 2014, and since then wind power has contributed 28 000 GWh of energy, which is more than half of all renewable energy produced to date.
“The impact that the R80.5-billion invested in wind power deployment has made on the South African economy is immeasurable.
“This investment has created 16 000 job years in the construction phase and will deliver 13 000 job years over a 20-year operational period,” SAWEA notes.
Also, 31% of the equity in the wind sector is held by broad-based black economic empowerment (BBBEE) shareholders and, through preferential procurement, R24-billion of the spend in the sector, has been allocated to BBBEE companies.
Moreover, local communities collectively own 10% of equity in the wind energy sector, which enables communities to have a direct stake in projects built in their areas and extends their economic benefits beyond socioeconomic development, acclaims SAWEA.
The wind sector has spent R20.8-billion on local content to date, which also resulted in the establishment of local tower manufacturing facilities.
“The biggest lesson from the last decade of wind power is that localisation requires continuous demand and long-term visibility of procurement plans.
“The stop-start nature of procurement has resulted in disinvestments in the past, with several renewable energy component manufacturers closing shop, including a wind tower manufacturing facility in Gqeberha,” SAWEA mentions.
It also says that wind power investment has had a substantial impact on local communities, with R520-million spent to date on socioeconomic development programmes such as women empowerment, skills and capacity development, education, social welfare, poverty alleviation and social infrastructure.
Wind farms are also supporting enterprise development initiatives in the areas they operate in and have, to date, spent R155-million on such initiatives to develop local businesses, SAWEA says.
South Africa is a signatory to the Paris Agreement on climate change, and subsequently submitted its Nationally Determined Contribution, which outlines a target to limit greenhouse-gas emissions.
The growth of wind power over the last decade has made a significant contribution towards reducing emissions, posits SAWEA.
The sector has contributed 28.8 t of carbon emission-equivalent reductions, to date, and will continue to contribute even more over the next decades, thereby getting the country closer to reaching a net zero carbon economy by 2050, it indicates.
Further to its impact on climate change, wind power has also achieved water savings of over 25-million kilolitres, notes SAWEA.