Currently, there is an estimated 7 000 MW of wind power plants under consideration in South Africa and the wind industry’s continuous growth needs a strong foundation, says Danish wind turbine manufacturer Vestas business development manager for Southern Africa Daniel Kurylo.
Vestas reports that there is a vast array of wind resources in many countries in Southern Africa, such as Tanzania and Namibia, but the market in sub-Saharan Africa is dominated by South Africa. Therefore, a good foundation for the industry will result in safe, sustainable and successful energy generation for the country, he says.
Vestas believes that South Africa is considered attractive by key global players in the wind energy industry because of the country’s good infrastructure, which includes a focus on grid development, a good wind resource and an open-minded public to the concept of wind energy. However, the real drivers for the market in the country are government and regu- latory bodies, working together to include wind as part of their renewable strategy for the country’s 20-year energy plan, Kurylo explains.
The company reports that, since wind energy is a quick solution for power genera- tion, it can assist South Africa in meeting the emission reduction commitments made at the United Nations Climate Change Conference 2009, in Copenhagen, and it could help to alleviate the rolling blackouts expected as early as June 2011.
With regard to carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, Vestas turbines emit only 5 g/kWh, while coal plants emit over 800 g/kWh.
Vestas targets utility companies such as State-owned power utility Eskom, independent power producers (IPPs) and large corporations, which own and operate mines. By having IPPs in the market, energy can be generated by multiple suppliers and result in energy being bought on the open market at the lowest available price and distributed to the public or to neighbouring countries.
“This creates a market where higher- cost power-generation technologies have to find solutions to reduce their cost of energy. “In the past year, this low cost of energy was just one of the reasons why wind energy was the most installed form of power generation globally,” Kurylo adds.
Vestas has factories in Asia, Europe, and the US, and states that these coun- tries have strong regulatory systems that ensure a long-term commitment to wind energy.
The company sees South Africa as a key emerging market for the development of wind energy, which wants to be proactive in its role of developing the local market, rather than merely enjoying the fruits of an already established industry in future, he adds.
“We want to build strong and con- structive partnerships with customers, the government, the power generation industry and the sustainable development community to develop a sustainable wind industry. We recognise that we have a responsibility not only to our customers, but also to the entire sector; so we are pursuing a strategy that will assist government and other stakeholders that want to get the wind industry really moving in South Africa,” he says.
Vestas’s plan is to have a presence where market demand warrants it. The sales office in Johannesburg is Southern Africa’s link to the rest of the Vestas global organisation. The company reports a healthy project pipeline, which it believes will grow as the market grows. It also aims to expand with service offices in other countries and, in time, if the regulatory framework per- mits, the establishment of manufacturing facilities.
The company plans to establish a permanent office in Kenya for the East African market, but the exacts dates are uncertain at this time.
Vestas Southern Africa currently has three full-time employees and is supported by over 20 000 employees worldwide. “We are currently planning our company transformation to become broad-based black economic-empowerment compliant, first with our current sales and admin- istration office, and, in the future, with our service and maintenance organisation,” says Kurylo.
The World Health Organisation reports that, in South Africa, which is the thir- tieth-driest country in the world, one out of five people have no access to fresh, clean drinking water and that, globally, every eight seconds, a child dies from a water-related disease. Wind energy uses 1 ℓ/MWh generated, compared with solar photovoltaic, which uses 135 ℓ/MWh, and coal, which uses 2 000 ℓ/MWh; hence, it is imperative to make the renewable-energy industry feasible in the country, he adds.
South Africa is fortunate to be able to build one of the most sustainable, renew- able-energy industries in the world. With the total cost of energy for a wind power plant being comparable with that of coal, Vestas believes that wind is the natural leader for large-scale renewable develop- ments in the country.
“As solar power continues to evolve and its current higher cost of energy decreases, it will surely follow with its own large-scale contribution to powering the region,” Kurylo adds.
The company says that over 80% of the materials used in a Vestas turbine are recyclable.