Cape’s second 80-MW wind farm includes partial community ownership

13th June 2008 By: Jade Davenport - Creamer Media Correspondent

The Western Cape Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning, together with the Saldanha Muni-cipality, the Seeland Development Trust, Oxfam UK and Genesis Eco-Energy, has embarked on a process to develop an 80-MW wind farm, with the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) governing the development of the project.

The R850-million renewable- energy project, dubbed the St Helena Bay wind farm, will be the second wind farm to be developed in South Africa, after the 5,2-MW Darling wind farm, which was officially launched last month.

The vicinity of St Helena Bay, where the facility will be built, is known to be a particularly windy area, with general wind speeds of 6 m/s.

Addressing the media at a press conference in Cape Town, Genesis Eco-Energy’s Davin Chown explained that the wind farm would be located on a 926-ha farm, which was owned by the Seeland community.

The site, which was acquired by the community through a land restitution process, was sufficient for a maximum generation capa- city of 150 MW. However, it was stated that the envisaged wind farm would generate 80 MW and would feed into the national grid.

It was not yet determined how many wind turbines would be required to generate this electricity as Genesis was still in procurement negotiations with three international wind turbine manufacturers. Wind turbines with a generation capacity of between 1,8 MW and 2,5 MW were being sought, and it was expected that these negotiations would be concluded later this year.

Apart from conducting negotiations with international manufacturers, Chown stated that the company was investigating opportunities to source turbine blades from Cape Town-based manufacturers.

According to Saldanha mayor Ornell de Beer, the project was reaching the final stages of its initial development and, consequently, an environmental-impact assessment (EIA) was expected to start next month.

While the EIA was under way, Chown explained that the various stakeholders would finalise the necessary financing agreements.

The timescale of the project was described by Chown as ambitious: once the EIA had been completed and the development capital secured, it was anticipated that the laying of the foundations for the wind turbines would start in June next year.

Western Cape of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning Minister Tasneem Essop described it as a flagship project for the provincial government as it was the first commercial energy project to include partial community ownership.

In this case, the Seeland community was expected to hold a 20% to 25% stake in the venture, although it still needed to secure the necessary capital for the development.

Essop said the community-ownership model would be used for future energy projects that were envisaged. This model would also assist in the diversification of the ownership of national energy sources.

In addition to pioneering community ownership of renewable energy, the project would significantly assist the government in reaching its 15% renewable-energy target by 2014.

It was expected that the St Helena Bay wind farm would be able to generate 2% of the entire Western Cape’s 3 500-MW summer requirement.