The 34.5 MW Wesley-Ciskei wind energy farm (WEF), in the Eastern Cape, achieved its commercial operations date this month, reports renewable energy developer and operator EDF Renewables.
After successfully completing the final Grid Code Compliance tests, the project has reached commercial operations and is supplying electricity into the grid, says EDF Renewables project manager Carl Wlotzka.
Built throughout the course of the Covid-19 pandemic, the project was delayed by South Africa’s initial level five lockdown, which prompted all construction activities to be halted for eight weeks.
“We also had to implement strict Covid-19 health and safety protocols upon reopening of the site, which concentrated on a range of measures to combat the spread of the pandemic – fortunately, the project was not significantly delayed,” says Wlotzka.
Despite the Covid-related challenges, the company completed construction of the project within 23 months.
The Wesley-Ciskei WEF comprises ten turbines.
The technology employed on the wind farm includes some of the largest turbines installed in South Africa, with a hub height of 117 m and each blade being 63 m long, making each turbine stand 180 m tall.
“It was a big transportation challenge to navigate the South African road network with extremely heavy turbine components, and blades that are up to 63 m in length. These components were delivered to Wesley-Ciskei WEF and installed in two months,” comments Wlotzka.
The wind project is part of the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REIPPPP) Bid Window 4.
“We are proud to be playing a key role in contributing to South Africa’s renewable energy goals and to the economic development of the Eastern Cape region,” says EDF Renewables CEO Tristan De Drouas.
He explains that EDF Renewables has contributed significantly to South Africa’s renewable energy goals, having already completed four wind farms under the REIPPPP, including the Waainek, Chaba, Grassridge and Wesley-Ciskei projects.
In total, EDF Renewables’ projects are now contributing 141.6 MW of generation capacity to the grid.
The project has created numerous jobs and resulted in several key economic development initiatives in the community, including a small, medium-sized and microenterprise (SMME) development and upskilling programme.
The objective was to assist about 50 SMMEs in the communities surrounding the project site in upskilling in the health and safety, communication skills, financing and tendering areas.
South African Institute of Chartered Accountants Enterprise Development was appointed to facilitate the programme.
A bursary scheme also assisted two students in the local community to study at an institution of higher learning.
During South Africa’s initial hard lockdown (Level 5), over 400 food parcels were delivered to the community and local businesses manufactured face masks and hand sanitisers for the site.
The project is also the subject of an academic study by the University of the Free State to assess the socioeconomic impact that the Wesley–Ciskei project has on its local communities since it is the first renewable energy project under the REIPPPP located in this former homeland area in South Africa.
Phase 1 of the study developed a baseline of the area and Phase 2 of the study will measure the same indicators at the end of the construction phase in order to make a comparative assessment.