Wind Atlas South Africa project offers freely available wind resource modelling methods, data and tools

4th October 2021 By: Schalk Burger - Creamer Media Senior Contributing Editor

The third phase of the Wind Atlas South Africa (Wasa 3) project has developed free-to-use wind resource estimation methods, data and tools that private and public organisations can use to inform decisions and policies.

These can also be shared with the rest of Africa and the world to support wind energy use for sustainable development, says United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) South Africa resident representative Dr Ayodele Odusola.

The University of Cape Town (UCT), which is one of the Wasa project implementation partners, has developed a Web portal for Wasa data and members of the public can access wind resource time-series data at no cost.

This data is valuable to study yearly and seasonal variations for power systems modelling, says Department of Minerals Resources and Energy (DMRE) renewable energy director Nomawethu Qase.

With Wasa 3, South Africa has developed a significant wind data bank that is supported by 18 wind measuring masts throughout the country. This wind data bank is useful for refining and validating wind resource models, including estimations on the impact of climate change on South Africa's wind resources.

"This information is freely available on the Wasa website to download and it is heartening that the Wasa website has about 3 000 registered users from 81 countries. This milestone would not have been achieved without the support of local and international partners who provided technical and financial support," she emphasises.

The DMRE and the Wasa project partners aimed to ensure that the knowledge generated from Wasa is made freely available to the public and Wasa has been used by wind energy developers in South Africa to identify hotspots before doing their own on site measurements, thereby helping wind energy developers to cut costs, says Qase.

"Further, the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment has overlaid Wasa information on renewable energy development zones and more than 90 countries have indicated [that] they will download the Wasa data," she says.

Odusola adds that the UNDP encourages continued and deepening scientific data generation and data exchange and the development of open systems that have sharing, collaboration and increased access in mind to maximise the development of tailored knowledge products.

"We are committed to making sure we serve as the interface of South-South cooperation in taking good practices to the rest of the world," he adds.

The Wasa programme started in 2008 as one of the South African Wind Energy programme projects and is funded by the Global Environmental Facility and the DMRE, with the support of the UNDP country office in South Africa and implementation partners the Denmark Technical University Wind Energy unit, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), UCT, the South African Weather Service and the South African National Energy Development Institute (SANEDI), which manages the project.

"Wasa seeks to enhance and cultivate skills, capacity, methods and data to enable large-scale exploitation of wind power for energy generation, and provides valuable data that can be used to investigate potential grid-connected and off-grid wind energy projects," says SANEDI interim CEO Lethabo Manamela.

"SANEDI is privileged to play a role in the development of Wasa, which is an invaluable resource that has levelled the playing field for everyone who wants to be involved in the wind energy space. Its implementation has allowed the large-scale deployment of wind power through the use of research and assessment tools," she says.

Accurate wind resource assessment is important because it is used in planning wind farm development and the real-time validation of models. This is key to allow stakeholders to use the data for what it is intended, in particular for long-term investment in economic development, says SANEDI Renewable Energy Centre of Research and Development manager Dr Karen Surridge.

"Wasa has established an industry standard platform of internationally recognised, scientifically fact-based and verified open source wind resource assessment and application. This means all the data, maps and tools are freely available to the public and private sector to be used in resource calculations.

"Government and partners can use Wasa to expand and develop the industry, which is what is needed for a just energy transition as the country moves to a more balanced energy mix. Considering that coal-fired power stations will have to be repurposed, Wasa provides information on how can these areas be used," she says.

Further, with the Integrated Resource Plan 2019 providing for 14.4 GW of new wind energy capacity to be established by 2030, Wasa feeds key government targets and plans, Surridge adds.

Electricity system operators will need accurate renewable energy forecasting of wind and solar resources to enable efficient system and grid operations.

Further, physical and statistical models require measurement data as inputs to measure weather and for statistical correction of modelled data that is in place. Wasa measurements can also be used to develop different methods for prediction and long-term measurements, she highlights.

Qase notes that administrative work is ongoing to green-light Phase 4 of the Wasa project.