With wind energy set to contribute more to the national energy grid in the future, owing to the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) 2019, wake loss will become more of a challenge as the wind energy sector grows, says local wind energy company Aurora Wind Power CEO Mmoledi Chisalokile.
“The IRP 2019 states that, by 2030, wind energy will represent 23% of the generation capacity in the country, and 18% of annual energy contribution. I believe this is a step in the right direction to help the country meet its climate change targets, as well as secure electricity generation capacity.”
Wake loss is a phenomenon caused when a new wind farm project is developed and placed upwind from, and in close proximity to, a previously existing wind farm. This results in the older downwind wind farm receiving reduced wind speed for its wind turbines.
Chisalokile mentions that, while wake loss is not a new phenomenon in a global context, it is a new phenomenon for the local wind energy industry, owing to the “infancy” of the industry.
He highlights that, in addition to reduced generating capacity for the downwind farm, owing to reduced wind speed, wind pattern fluctuations can cause an increase in the wear-and-tear rate on wind turbines.
Currently, the only available platform for existing wind farms to oppose any neighbouring wind-farm development is through a public participation process of affected and interested parties with the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF), Chisalokile explains.
The department conducts environmental-impact assessments (EIAs), after which the department potentially grants environmental authorisation for the development of a new wind farm.
He says Aurora Wind Power and other wind farms affected by wake loss are following the processes afforded by law.
However, he argues that the public participation process is not sufficient, as there are risks posed by wake loss that are not considered in the EIA.
This includes technical, financial and legal risks, which Chisalokile states needs to be considered with the environmental factors to comprehensively address wake loss.
Relevant government agencies – such as the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy; the National Energy Regulator of South Africa; the DEFF; and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research – need to create appropriate mechanisms to manage the impact of wake loss at existing and new wind farms to encourage investment in the wind energy industry, he argues.
Aurora Wind Power has implemented relief packages, donations and adaptive plans to alleviate disruptions caused by Covid-19 at several of its socioeconomic development programmes, in the Western Cape.
The programmes are informed by a detailed analysis of community needs, which is undertaken by Aurora Wind Power for communities within a 50 km radius of its West Coast One wind energy farm.
The programmes follow a detailed community needs analysis, which identified necessary focus areas in early childhood development, skills development and enterprise development. This led to Aurora Wind Power’s partnering with various implementation partners to conduct these programmes.
These programmes include a bursary programme with educational organisation StudyTrust; a leadership development programme with nongovernmental organisation (NGO) Valued Citizens Initiative, an early childhood development programme with NGO Early Learning Resource Unit and nonprofit organisation Siyabonga Africa, as well as an enterprise development programme with accountancy body the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants.
Chisalokile explains that the pandemic has disrupted these programmes in many ways, especially because many of the programmes require face-to-face interaction.
To alleviate some of these disruptions, Aurora Wind Power has offered several immediate relief packages. This includes donations of 470 food and hygiene parcels, 500 reuseable fabric face masks and donations of various sanitation products for the reopening of three schools.
Further, several adaptive plans have been developed and are being applied regarding the socioeconomic development programmes.
“Our response to Covid-19 was underpinned by our responsibility to act as a good corporate citizen. With Covid-19 and the lockdown, there was an immediate impact, so we had to adapt to that immediate impact.”