As Eskom fails to keep unplanned breakdowns at below 9,500MW – the level at which it is forced to consider load shedding – since the start of December, there is growing pressure on government to fast-track renewable power projects.
Ntombifuthi Ntuli, CEO of the South African Wind Energy Association (SAWEA), believes just by lifting the Maximum Export Capacity (MEC) on all operating wind farms, which governs how much energy is permitted to be exported by wind farm power generators to the grid, 500MW of energy could immediately be brought online.
According to the Independent Power Producers Procurement Programme (IPPPP), 3,976MW of electricity generation capacity from 64 IPP projects has been connected to the national grid. Wind makes up the lion’s share providing 52% of renewable energy to the grid. Among the largest are 3 wind farms that contribute almost 140MW each.
IPPs are nowhere near the 36,400MW (41,000MW if you include Medupi and Kusile which aren’t finished yet) delivered by coal. But this picture could change quickly: unlike coal power stations, which take years to build – Medupi has been under construction since 2007 – renewable projects can be built quite quickly and there’s a good track record of them sticking to schedules.
There is some good news on the way. IPP contribution is expected to go up to 6,422MW once all 112 projects come online. These are part of Bid window 4, the last bid window to be signed off by Eskom. These are currently the largest sustainable energy projects:
Longyuan Mulilo Green Energy Number 2 North Wind Energy Facility – 138.96MW
Longyuan Mulilo’s Number 2 North Wind Farm is one of the largest wind farms in South Africa. It is a massive 138.95MW farm found a few kilometers outside of De Aar, in the Northern Cape. Along with a second 100MW wind farm, also in De Aar, Longyuan South Africa has invested almost R5 billion into the two projects. Longyuan SA is a wholly owned subsidiary of China Longyuan Power Group Corporation – one of the world’s largest wind-power developers.
Loeriesfontein Wind Farm 2 – 138.23MW
On 8 December 2017, Loeriesfontein Wind Farm was delivered into operation on schedule, and on budget, as part of the third round bid window of the REIPPP. With a generation capacity of 140MW the R3.5 billion farm boasts 61 Siemens SWT-2.3-108 turbines. The Loeriesfontein Wind Farm forms part of a joint venture between global energy producers Mainstream Renewable Power and Lekela Power.
The site was chosen because of its excellent wind resource, its proximity to national roads for wind turbine transportation, the favourable construction conditions, municipality and local stakeholder support, the straightforward electrical connection into the Eskom grid, and studies showed that there would be little environmental impact.
Khobab Wind – 137.74MW
Khobab Wind Farm, also built by Mainstream Renewable Power, is located right next door to Loeriesfontein Wind Farm. Like its neighbour the farm contributes almost 140MW. The wind farm was estimated to cost R3.5 billion.
Cookhouse Wind Farm – 135.8MW
The R2.4 billion Cookhouse Wind Farm comprises of 66 Suzlon S88 wind turbine generators with a capacity of 135.8 MW.
It is located just outside of Cookhouse, in the Blue Crane Route Municipality in the Eastern Cape, and spans 2,600 hectares of pastoral land. The land is leased from a local farmer and you can expect to see plenty of sheep grazing below the blades. The wind farm first supplied electricity to the grid in March 2014.
Suzlon Wind Energy South Africa constructed the wind farm and is currently responsible for operation and maintenance. It is owned by Old Mutual, the African Infrastructure Investment Managers (AIIM) and the Local Community Trust.
Gouda Wind Project – 135.5MW
The R2,7 billion Gouda Wind Farm is owned by a consortium of ACCIONA Energía (51%); Aveng (29%); Soul City Broad-Based Empowerment Company (10%); and the Gouda Wind Energy Community Trust (10%). Located in the Drakenstein munisipality, Western Cape, it has 46 AW3000 turbines mounted on 100 meter-high concrete towers.
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