News

DoE tests market for near-term power demand reduction offers

South Africa’s Department of Energy (DoE) has issued a formal appeal for companies and individuals to provide it with information on possible near-term solutions to reduce or shift electricity demand, as well as to immediately improve supply – the responses will guide the design of future procurement processes.

Government’s Independent Power Producer (IPP) Office released the request for information (RFI) in mid-December and responses need to be submitted by February 2.
 The RFI documentation notes that demand response and/or distributed generation strategies are “critical” to improving the reserves needed by the system operator to better employ available generating capacity and to allow for higher levels of power-station maintenance. The anticipated daily shortfall, the RFI adds, is likely to be between 3 000 MW and 5 000 MW until additional generation capacity is introduced.

Differing seasonal requirements are also highlighted, with savings targeted for between 9:00 and 21:00 in the summer months from September to April and between 17:00 and 20:00 from May to August.

The RFI follows the adoption by Cabinet in December of a five-point plan designed to stabilise the electricity supply sector, which has become increasingly prone to disruption, owing to a delay in Eskom’s build programme and a decline in the performance of the utility’s aging generation fleet.

The paid-for advertisement also acknowledges the depth of the electricity problem, describing it as a “crisis” – a stark deviation from the official stance adopted by Eskom, which has continually avoided using the word crisis to describe the state of the power system.

Included in the Cabinet-endorsed plan is a directive that private IPPs, cogeneration and demand-side solutions be harnessed with the support of various procurement programmes. Also emphasised is an ambition to manage demand “through specific interventions within residential dwellings, public and commercial buildings and municipalities through retrofitting energy efficient technologies”. The DoE believes that demand-side could free up 500 MW within six months.

This approach has been strongly supported by Business Leadership South Africa, which says big business stands ready to support the implementation of the five-point plan, including through the accelerated demand side management interventions.

The specific objective of the RFI is to gather information and test the market for innovative demand response and/or distributed generation solutions. The DoE notes that similar exercises proved useful ahead of the design of the renewable-energy procurement process, through which nearly 4 000 MW of capacity has been procured. In addition, market testing is helping guide the design of baseload and cogeneration procurement initiatives.

This RFI is particularly interested in companies and individuals with dispatchable demand response solutions, as well as in energy efficiency, load management and fuel switching proposals. In addition the RFI is also seeking information on distributed generation prospects, despite the fact that the regulations are not yet fully supportive of allowing individuals and businesses to feed excess capacity back into the grid.

“This RFI is intended to generate information to assist the department to assess the size, type and nature of the possible solutions available to enable it to develop appropriate strategies, as well as the options with solutions to implement such strategies,” the department explains.

Responses are being sought from independent demand-response aggregators, developers of innovative demand-side management projects and distributed generators, but the DoE stresses that the RFI will not be used as a basis for prequalification.

Blooming renewables in South Africa

Due to the increasing threat of climate change, the key role that energy plays in the interactions between societies and resources towards a sustainable development has gained broad attention. As renewable energy sources (RES) become more competitive in relation to other energy sources, they create another opportunity to attract additional investments in favour of a greener economy.

In 2008, South Africa experienced a game-changing energy crisis due to severe capacity constraints in its energy infrastructure, thus forcing the country to tackle its energy challenges and initiate a transition to a low carbon economy. It is therefore no surprise that the potential of RES has gained increasing traction in South Africa.

On the eve of a global energy shift, South Africa has developed the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REI4P) to increase the share of renewables in its energy mix. Stemming from private sector participation in the electricity industry, the 2003 South African White Paper on Renewable Energy had set ambitious targets to facilitate future power generation capacity. Against this background, REI4P launched in 2011 with an initial target of 3,725 MW, divided into three bidding windows. The first and second bidding windows took place in 2013 through the Department of Energy, and the third one concluded this year.

Besides an increasing share of RES in the South Africa energy mix, further benefits have been derived from the REI4P, such as job creation in the renewable energy sector and the reduction of renewable energy prices. For example, between the first and second bidding windows, wind energy prices have fallen by 22 per cent, and solar prices by 40 per cent. In September 2013, South Africa incorporated its first solar power plant into its national grid under the REI4P. In three years, the REI4P has contracted 64 projects, and unprecedentedly managed to attract private investors in the South Africa energy infrastructure sector.

However, the REI4P has faced several setbacks. Among other issues, connection to the national grid backbone has encountered difficulties, due to insufficient investments in infrastructure, as well as national grid extension, with people in remote areas remaining off-grid. In addition, while the two first bidding windows were dominated by a wide range of developers, the third one witnessed a decrease in local and small companies, which found it harder to compete in a context of decreased prices.

In the process of an increasing RES share in the national production of energy, two main lessons can be learned from the South Africa REI4P experience: the need for comprehensive distribution and transmission planning on the one side, and the establishment of stronger links between the national bulk electricity provider and the Independent Power Producers (IPP) on the other side.

Fresh on the heels of the REI4P success, South Africa has also gained a stronger position on the international energy scene. The REI4P has propelled the country as a top three investment destination worldwide for renewables, and South Africa has therefore rapidly grown into a key energy partner. In 2010, US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton and South Africa’s Minister of International Relations and Co-operation, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, launched the US–South Africa Strategic Dialogue to advance co-operation on energy issues, among others. It includes the pursuit of common interests regarding RES, energy efficiency, peaceful nuclear co-operation, carbon capture, and shale gas exploration technologies. In 2013, both countries agreed to work more closely on solar, wind and biogas as clean energy sources, in particular for the REI4P’s extended fourth and fifth windows in 2015.

Written by Dr Agathe Maupin, SAIIA researcher working on energy and climate change. This article was written from the 20th annual Conference of Parties of the Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP20), in Lima, Peru, and first published in Outreach magazine on 2 December 2014.

Answer to energy problem is blowing in the wind

FOUR groups of 12 hippies sitting in circles, some sheep grazing and a large concrete tower with some shaky scaffolding tenuously attached to it. Those were my first impressions of the community of Tvind that I visited in the summer of 1977.

Tvind, in Denmark’s west Jutland region, was an experiment in alternative schooling that included the concept of a travelling school, which would visit Third World countries and help to find ways to beat poverty. Although the Tvind schools can claim to have had an effect on pedagogy in Denmark — and they attracted a lot of controversy along the way — it is the large concrete tower that was under construction when I visited that has had the biggest effect. What the school was building was one of the country’s first big wind turbines.

The Tvind wind turbine started producing power in 1978. Thirty-six years on, Denmark’s wind industry employs 25,000 people in 350 companies with a turnover of more than R160bn.

As a visiting teenager, I thought the idea of the wind turbine was quite cool, but part of the attraction was that it was so alternative, so far removed from the mainstream. It was not possible to imagine back then that Denmark, just more than three decades later, would be providing almost 30% of its energy needs from wind power. The goal is to reach 50% by 2020.

One of the reasons that the forward-thinking teachers of Tvind started on the wind turbine was to prove to the world that nuclear power was not the only way forward. The antinuclear movement in Denmark was very strong in the 1970s. "Atomkraft? Nej Tak" (Nuclear? No Thanks) stickers were everywhere.

In 1985 the Danish parliament ruled out nuclear power stations being built on Danish soil. About 80% of the country’s wind turbines are owned by private shareholders or co-operatives. The island of Samsø has so much renewable energy it is now "carbon positive" and all of the inhabitants have a stake in the island’s wind turbines and solar panels.

SA’s journey into the realm of wind energy began quite recently, but there are some advantages to being a late entry into an industry. For one thing, the South African and Danish governments have a Renewable Energy Programme co-operation agreement, which was signed in 2013. This includes assistance in the creation of a comprehensive wind atlas that will map wind resources around the country.

Working with the scientists and engineers at Denmark’s Technical University (DTU), the same institution that worked on Tvind all those years ago, brings huge benefits to the South African partners such as the South African National Energy Development Institute, the co-ordinator of the atlas project, the South African Weather Services, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and the University of Cape Town.

The Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Programme (REIPPP), whereby private companies bid for the right to build projects, has so far favoured wind. By the end of the third round of bidding, 1,983MW had been allocated to onshore wind projects. The simple average cost of kilowatt hours was reduced by nearly 30% to 74c by the time the third round was completed, the South African Wind Energy Association (SAWEA) said.

The association further calculated that round three of the REIPPP would save SA more than R15bn over the next two decades, using the price of power to be generated by the Medupi coal-powered power station as a comparison.

The Danish ambassador to SA, René Dinesen, has described the programme as "very transparent and very effective, setting new international standards in the field".

SA’s wind sector is growing fast. Before the programme began, the country had a total of eight turbines. The first two rounds of the programme will see 500 constructed and by 2030 about 9,000MW of wind power will be available to Southern Africans.

A good transmission grid is vital if renewables are going to play a big role in power generation in the subcontinent. When Denmark has excess wind power, it is sent to Norway to pump water uphill into reservoirs for later use in hydroelectric power generation. Lisbeth Jespersen, the deputy head of the Global Green Growth Forum in the Danish foreign ministry, says getting turbines to Africa presents "no problem" but the key is "getting the energy out to the people".

A few kilometres north of Tvind, where the old wind turbine still produces energy after all these years, there is a test site for wind turbines that are quite staggeringly big. The national test centre for large wind turbines at Østerild is run by Denmark’s Technical University and hosts turbines being tested by Siemens, Vestas Wind Systems and EDF Enérgies Nouvelles, a French company using Alstom technology.

The latest 8MW turbine being tested by Vestas stands a total of 222m above ground, with a tower measuring 140m and rotor blades measuring 80m.

What a few teachers started in the 1970s has morphed into something really big. The huge moving towers looming over a hillside north of the Limfjord in northern Denmark are a sure sign that wind power is growing and it is coming to SA very quickly.

• Young was an exchange student in Denmark in the 1970s. He has recently visited the country on a study tour as a guest of the Danish foreign ministry, International Media Support and the State of Green.

Department of energy delays frustrate power producers

RENEWABLE energy independent power producers say that they are concerned that the latest round of successful bids have still not achieved financial closure, creating uncertainty over planned investments in the sector.

Previous rounds of the renewable energy independent power producer procurement (REIPPP) process have been a great success, with 21 renewable projects, which will provide 1,076MW, connected to the grid. The renewable programme is viewed as important means to help close the power gap in a period when SA’s energy supply is extremely constrained.

However, the third round ran into problems, initially due to a delay in undertakings by Eskom.

Eskom has also indicated that it cannot invest in grid connections for further rounds of the REIPPP.

Eskom said on Tuesday that it had now provided quotations for all the third round project connections. The next stage, which is the management of the financial close, is the responsibility of the Department of Energy. An initial deadline of the end of July was shifted to November 24. As the close must be staggered to avoid a knock on the currency, the South African Renewable Energy Council has raised doubts over whether the deadline will be met.

The Department of Energy did not respond to several inquiries over two days on whether it would make Monday’s deadline.

The outstanding success of the first two rounds of renewable bids, generated about R120bn in investment, says the council. It says that these investments are now in jeopardy as uncertainty grows over subsequent rounds.

CEO of the council Johan van den Bergh says at some firms production of wind turbines was stalled due to the delays while several manufacturers of photovoltaics were running at 2% capacity, despite millions made in investments.

"The viability of manufacturing facilities and the accompanying jobs and companies may be threatened if finality does not come before year-end. Uncertainty about the timing of announcing the preferred bidders for round 3.5 (for concentrated solar power only) and round 4 has also added to discomfort."

Eskom recently made it clear that it is unable to fund grid strengthening any further than the requirements of round 3.

In reply to questions Eskom said on Tuesday it was investing in the transmission infrastructure in the Northern Cape to accommodate about 500MW of renewable energy. This would be more than adequate to meet the requirements for rounds one, two and three of the renewable energy bids, it said.

However, the power utility would not be able to provide for the needs of round four as this was not included in the plans submitted to the National Energy Regulator of SA under the multiyear price determination which runs from 2013-14 to 2017-18.

Youth will help fulfil potential hidden in renewable energy

TODAY 60 young South Africans graduate from the Kimberley Maths and Science Academy. Set up by Anne MacLean in 2006, with the specific goal of providing talented students from poor backgrounds with an opportunity to achieve their potential in the gateway subjects of maths and science, the academy has over the past four years provided these Grade 9-12 pupils with continuing support in maths, science and English through afternoon classes and holiday academies.

My company, Mainstream Renewable Power, has supported this initiative for the four years because we believe SA needs young engineers who will help build a new sustainable future for the country. This is increasingly important as SA, like many countries, faces a long period of economic slowdown, described as secular stagnation.

Former US treasury secretary Larry Summers has revived this economic theory, which was first articulated in the 1930s, to describe the extended slump that followed the US’s great crash, where the difficulty of "maintaining sufficient demand to permit normal levels of output" was addressed only by Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal and the very significant stimulus to the US economy that occurred through the country’s mobilisation for the Second World War.

A recent report from the International Monetary Fund has analysed the effect of secular stagnation on economies such as SA’s, where "serial disappointments in growth have led to a ratcheting down of medium-term growth forecasts". Its remedy for this cycle of weak demand and anaemic output is to develop infrastructure, both to stimulate demand, and to create the framework for a more robust economy. Infrastructure investment boosts demand, says the report, "through the short-term fiscal multiplier, similar to other government spending, and by crowding in private investment…".

In a report written in 2012 economic analysts at the Centre for Economics and Business Research argued that investment in renewable energy in the UK would have a larger than normal multiplier effect due to the stagnation of the economy. I suspect that this effect would apply in SA as well.

It was the opportunity to develop new infrastructure with the government and other partners that enabled us to create Mainstream SA. The government’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme has delivered 1,400MW of operational plant with an immediate further pipeline of 3,700MW of new electrical infrastructure, which is providing additional electricity to the national grid to help relieve unserved demand, and bringing economic activity to many economically marginalised rural areas of the country. It stands as a successful global model of the benefits of delivering infrastructure in a weakened economy, both in terms of stimulating demand and attracting investment.

It is important not to underestimate the programme’s effect of "crowding in private investment". In only three years the programme has attracted $14bn of private sector capital, which has in itself acted as a significant stimulus to the local economy. It is quite probable that these projects will be self-financing for the public purse — although the government provides a fixed price for the electricity produced, the cost of doing so will be paid back through general economic growth, and a reduction in the country’s debt-to-gross domestic product ratio.

Companies such as mine have grown in SA as we seek to develop and build new infrastructure under the programme. As the government looks to review its medium-term energy strategy I would urge it to extend this programme, and procure a consistent amount of new renewable energy every year for the next 20 years.

At present more than 40% of the capital expenditure necessary to build wind and solar power plant in the country is used to acquire goods and services supplied from SA. This figure could be much higher if the government were to commit to the programme over the next 20 years. I have made the point with the government on a number of occasions that no matter which boilers are chosen for a coal plant, or which steam or gas turbines are deployed, they are unlikely to be manufactured locally. However, with wind and solar photovoltaic, broadly everything can be manufactured here, given sufficient demand.

This month’s opening of the GRI wind turbine tower plant at Atlantis, Cape Town, is a clear example of this developing trend. Not only will equipment be manufactured for the domestic market but the rest of sub-Saharan Africa could also be supplied from here.

In addition, the renewable energy producer programme has delivered new generation plant to the grid on time and on budget, with a levelised cost (the net cost to install a renewable energy system divided by its expected lifetime energy output) of energy less than that forecast for a new coal plant. This is a remarkable achievement for the government, and is indicative of the extensive solar and wind resources available in SA.

Why is all of this important to the 60 Kimberley graduates? In a powerful analysis of the effects of secular stagnation on SA’s economy Sanlam group economist Jac Laubscher wrote last week that one of the dangers was the potential for this stagnation to reduce the contribution of education to the development of human capital.

His remedy lies in structural reforms that would include improving the education system, investing in physical infrastructure and increasing incentives for low-skilled workers to enter the labour market.

I agree. That is why Mainstream is backing the Kimberley Academy and investing in new national infrastructure. The academy’s stated vision is to provide support and opportunities to foster success and ultimately increase the number of future scientists, engineers and leaders of the calibre needed for the growth of SA’s economy. That is an ambition that we, and the other supporting partners across government and the private sector, fully endorse.

I anticipate that the Kimberley graduates will have a huge part to play in helping to design and build the new infrastructure that will return this country to a period of significant growth.

There is another factor at work, which gives rise to optimism that we are headed in the right direction, and that there is a route out of secular stagnation. It is the effects of new technology, such as renewable energy, on the economies of developed and developing nations.

In a book published this year, The Second Machine Age, the authors argue that it can take some time for breakthroughs in technology to fully affect productivity. Though US factories first used electricity in the 1890s, productivity growth didn’t accelerate until the 1920s. This, they argue, was because electric motors at first just replaced steam ones. It was only when staff accustomed to the steam era retired, to be replaced by younger colleagues familiar with electricity’s potential, that plant was reorganised to take advantage of electricity.

In a recent review, a commentator asked, in the context of secular stagnation, whether behind the apparent global slowdown, we may also be seeing a pause as we adjust to new technology. That is certainly the case in SA, as we shift from old and dirty fossil fuels to the sustainable renewable resources of the future. It will be our Kimberley graduates who will deliver this future for us.

O’Connor is CEO of Mainstream Renewable Power.

Big step into wind power

A R300-million wind-turbine tower factory opened in Atlantis on Wednesday, the first in the Western Cape and the second in the country.

The factory, built by the Spanish corporation GRI Renewable Industries, will make 50 turbine towers a year, employ 200 people and contribute to the government’s requirement of having a percentage of local content in all renewable energy projects.

Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies said at the opening that 26 percent of the cost of a wind turbine was in the tower.

“It doesn’t make sense for us to be importing them when we can very well make them in our own country. We believe there is significant space in South Africa for investment of this sort and a bright future for renewable energy for solving the energy crisis which is constraining investment generally,” Davies said.

The government’s renewable energy programme, a partnership with private companies which bid to be able to build power plants, had won accolades internationally.

He quoted Bloomberg’s New Energy Finance Climatescope 2014 report which had ranked South Africa third, after China and Brazil, for new investment in clean energy.

The renewable energy programme had also won the Green Infrastructure project of the year last year in the Global Infrastructure Leadership Conference in New York.

“This shows our ability to support a big shift to renewable energy and help avoid catastrophic climate change by reducing our carbon footprint,” Davies pointed out.

He said the green economy was a key focus in Trade and Industry’s industrial policy and provided significant opportunities for job creation and economic growth.

The amount of local content required by government in renewable energy plants had been steadily increasing, starting at 25 percent in the first round of bids to build from the private sector, and would be 40 percent in round four, scheduled to take place on November 24.

The Western Cape government is to apply to Trade and Industry to have some of Atlantis declared a Special Economic Zone to help speed up industrialisation through a suite of tax and other incentives.

Transport and Public Works MEC Donald Grant said last year that 652 sections of wind-turbine towers had been transported on provincial roads, 221 blades, 111 nacelles and 98 hubs. The impetus of the renewable energy investment must be used to expand the country’s rail freight, and move more freight from road to rail.

Currently, 89 percent of freight was transported by road. The congestion and damage to roads from this was untenable and would offset the gains in the green sector.

Mayor Patricia de Lille said the GRI factory was the first major investment the city had attracted through its pilot investment incentive scheme in Atlantis.

The city had established a green-technology manufacturing cluster on vacant city land in the Atlantis industrial area in 2011, and had fast-tracked business applications in the green-technology sector. Other incentives included exemption from application fees and waiving development facilitation fees.

“Factories such as GRI have gone from blueprints to being built in record time,” she said.

SA wind farms exceeding estimates

Real data on the output from South Africa’s wind farms shows they are significantly exceeding estimates

Delegates at the South African Wind Energy Association’s (SAWEA’s) Windaba 2014 heard that the data from the South African Wind Atlas used in the draft version of the latest update of the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), which makes recommendations on the country’s future development  of energy technologies  up to 2030, had been conservative.

Keith Bowen, Eskom’s Chief Adviser of Power System Economics explained that the data he used for a cost comparison with other technologies came from a model that did not anticipate the actual performance of operating wind farms. This is because the wind map had not been calibrated at the time and further because wind farm developers search out optimum sites within generally windy areas. These sites show wind speeds exceeding the surrounding average.
This news is significant for the industry as it means that running an updated model with the new inputs would lead to a much higher allocation of wind power  in the country’s long term energy master plan. Such an increased ambition would allow the industry to attract equipment manufacturers to South Africa and raise the percentage of project funds spent locally (“local content”) level of wind farms from the present 46%, towards the long term target of 70%.

“It’s pleasing to note general acceptance of our long held belief that wind farms benefit from an extremely good resource in our country” commented SAWEA CEO Johan Van den Berg. “Running the IRP model again will see us upscaling the industry to levels where industrialisation becomes very exciting.  The country is in dire need of more electricity and will continue to be until perhaps 2020. Wind power can deliver this very quickly and at lower cost than any other bulk source. Wind energy is the cheapest, fastest way to get electricity to our stressed grid. We have 100s of wind turbines already providing energy to the grid, with thousands more in development and dozens of projects in various stages of planning. If the government just says the word, we can break ground.”

As an example cost comparison, wind energy now is one eighth of the price of the peaking plants that Eskom currently calls upon during times when electricity supply is tight.

Acting Director General of the Department of Energy Dr Wolesy Barnard told conference attendees that Eskom is already reliant on the contribution of renewable energy to the grid. The amount of energy available from renewable sources is increasing all the time as more plants are built and connected to the grid.

Delegates also heard that wind energy is now set to make a contribution of more than ZAR 7 Billion to communities and socio-economic development over the next 20 years in South Africa. With five wind farms in full operation, 22 large-scale wind farms currently under construction and another 700 MW expected to be awarded imminently, the total capacity amounts to 2684MW set to be installed. Each of these developments has committed significant financial investment to nearby communities. Further wind energy development would result in more investment in communities.

SAWEA considers delivery on its socio economic compact with government as core to its mandate. “The theme of our conference ‘Power2thePeople: changing lives through wind energy’ has provided valuable ongoing debate and discussions as well as the benefit of shared experiences on the subject of working with communities and how funds can be most effectively invested,” said SAWEA Chairperson Dipolelo Elford. “The industry is fully committed to working with communities that are hosting its wind farms to offer direct, sustainable, long-term benefits and rural development”.

Direct, indirect and induced employment opportunities are created during all stages of the development, implementation and operations and maintenance (O&M) of the wind farms, yet only a fraction of direct jobs are accounted for in the REIPPPP. With the current awarded installed capacity and future IRP2010 allocation, a conservative figure of 77,700 cumulative jobs (person-years) may be created by 2030, 54,400 in the 20 year O&M period. This results in a minimum of 3,600 direct long-term and sustainable jobs, predominantly for semi-skilled and skilled individuals in local communities.

South African wind tops models

Data on the output of South Africa’s wind farms reveals they are exceeding by a significant margin estimates used to model the nation’s 20-year energy blueprint, according to Eskom.

The utility said figures used in the draft of the latest update to the Integrated Resource Plan, which makes recommendations on the development of energy technologies up to 2030, had been “conservative”.

Eskom chief advisor for power system economics Keith Bowen said it failed to factor in developers seeking out optimum sites with wind speeds exceeding an area’s surrounding average.

The findings pave the way for an updated model that could lead to the government making a higher allocation of wind power.

South African Wind Energy Association chief executive Johan Van den Berg said: “It’s pleasing to note general acceptance of our long-held belief that wind farms benefit from an extremely good resource in our country.

“Running the IRP model again will see us upscaling the industry to levels where industrialisation becomes very exciting.”

Wind energy now is one-eighth of the price of the peaking plants Eskom currently calls upon during times when electricity supply is tight.

Update on renewable energy developments in the Western Cape

Renewable Energy has been identified as one of the main climate change mitigation interventions for South Africa. As a signatory to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, South Africa has pledged to strive to achieve 34% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 and 42% by 2025.

BirdLife South Africa supports the responsible development of Renewable Energy in South Africa with due regard to minimising the impact on birds. The Birds & Wind Energy Specialist Group – a group of specialists who guide BirdLife South Africa and EWT’s work towards minimising the impact of wind energy on birds – has been identified as a key stakeholder in the roll out of RE developments and provides advice to government, industry and environmental consultants.

(1) Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Programme (REIPPP). This programme has been designed to allow independent power producers to generate renewable energy and input this into the national grid. Initially there were hundreds of EIA applications for wind and solar energy sites. Some have been withdrawn or have lapsed. Only a small percentage of those projects with environmental approval will ever be built. There is a lot of development pressure in the Eastern Cape due to the perceived socio-economic benefits of renewable energy development. In the Western Cape, most of the proposed wind farms are in the West Coast and Karoo.

(2) Wind Energy
There have been three rounds of this project thus far:
– Round 1: 634MW (8 wind farms, approx. 250 turbines)
– Round 2: 563MW (7 wind farms, approx. 225 turbines)
– Round 3: 787MW (7 wind farms, approx. 300 turbines)

Bids have recently been submitted for the 4th round.

Preferred Bidders in the Western Cape:
– Round 1: Dassiesklip Wind Energy Facility, Hopefield Wind Farm (operational or near operational).
– Round 2: Wind Farm West Coast 1, Gouda Wind Farm (under construction).
– Round 3: None in the Western Cape.

Wind Energy and Birds. Wind energy can have a negative impact on birds. Potential threats include collision, habitat loss, displacement, and disturbance. Not all turbines are dangerous. Site selection and monitoring are critical. Experience in other parts of the world is that mortality through collisions is a rare event. One study looked at statistics from projects in various parts of the world and came up with an estimated average of 2.3 mortalities per turbine per year, but the variation in rates between wind farms is significant with a range of 0-60 mortalities/turbine/year. Most groups of birds are affected but raptors account for a large number of mortalities.

(3) Solar Energy. Solar plants/farms are designed to generate power through the photovoltaic (PV) process or concentrated solar power (CSP). CSP has the capacity to store energy for up to 9 hours.

Solar Projects in the Western Cape:
– Vredendal, Electra Capital, Aurora, SlimSun Swartland Solar Park, proposed Touwsrivier facility.

Solar Energy and Birds. Habitat loss was initially thought to be the biggest problem with solar energy. However, there is increasing evidence that birds can also be impacted by impact trauma or stranding if they collide with the reflective panels. Solar flux (areas of concentrated solar energy) at CSP facilities using power towers can also affect birds by burning them.

(4) BirdLife South Africa’s Approach.
Discourage proposals in sensitive areas:
– Tools: Avian Wind Sensitivity Map, Strategic Environmental Assessment, project screening.
Promote rigorous impact assessment:
– Tools: Best Practice Guidelines (wind) (not produced currently for solar), capacity building
(DEA and specialists), comment on EIAs/casework. Note: DEA has not officially endorsed
the Guidelines.
Promote monitoring of impacts.
– Tools: Best Practice Guidelines, review monitoring reports.
Promote knowledge development.
– Tools: Central repository for monitoring reports, facilitate research, facilitate information
exchange.

Note: The Letseng wind facility in Lesotho has been approved. There is huge concern regarding the impact on the endangered Bearded Vulture. BLSA is working closely with the Department of the Environment in Lesotho and the developer in an attempt to resolve the issue.

(5) Challenges and Future Focus.
Solar energy: Monitoring and impact assessment.
Wind energy: (i) Post-construction monitoring critical; (ii) Operational phase mitigation.
– Defining “acceptable” levels of impact.
– Species specific guidance.
– Data management and access to data.
– Strategic environmental assessment.
– Cumulative impact on populations over a number of turbines.
– Sensitivity map.

(6) What Bird Clubs can do.
Information gathering (e.g. SABAP2) to feed into Sensitivity map and screening.
Comment on EIAs – local knowledge, engage with the details, and support Best Practice.
Voluntary monitoring (e.g. My Bird Patch)
Lobby developers to contribute to local conservation initiatives.
Keep BirdLife South Africa informed.
Use less electricity.

Comments and Questions:
– (KH): There is the question of the distance covered by power lines from turbines to energy grid. EIAs cover only the immediate area of the turbines, not the area covered by power lines. (SR) Agree. The guidelines recommend that power lines be checked and marked.
– (DW): Are wind farm developers adhering to the guidelines given? (SR) Compliance is increasing. This is where post-construction monitoring is important.
– (DW): How sure are we about the predictions made in EIA? (SR): The Sensitivity map is being updated. It sufficed for initial guidelines but more research is now needed.
– (TW): BLSA is pushing an over emphasis on raptors being impacted by wind turbines; other species are not taken into account to the same extent. (SR): Raptors do seem to be more vulnerable than waterbirds which seem to avoid turbines to some degree. (TW) They fly at night at turbine height. (PN): Waterbirds are a priority at the Gouda site.
– (PN): Observers monitor species on the map, flight path and height at which the bird is flying. The information is given to the contractor. PN’s concern is whether there is an oversight mechanism to ensure it is being followed. (SR) Yes, this is the role of the appointed bird specialists. Data recorded by observers is taken into account and adhered to where clear patterns emerge.

Gestamp Wind is ready to build more wind farms in SA

Gestamp Wind said it was ready to begin building more wind farms in South Africa, focussing on increasing skills development and supporting small businesses with the wind farms.

Gestamp Wind is focused on developing, constructing, and operating its own wind farms throughout the world, – entered South Africa in 2010. In 2011 it was awarded the tender for the construction of a 73,8 MW wind farm located in the Karoo area on the farm Noblesfontein near Victoria West. The wind farm, with an approximate investment of R1.5bn, was delivered on time and on budget and became operational during the second quarter of 2014. Gestamp Wind is also participating in Round 4 of the REIPP public tender process for another wind project of 102 MW, giving continuity and further impetus to its long term strategy in South Africa.

Dionisio Fernandez, CEO of Gestamp Wind said, “We have strong confidence in the South African REIPP programme despite temporary delays in the Round 3 closing and the announcement of Round 4 . The group is continuing with its projects and investments in South Africa by opening the biggest wind tower factory on the African continent this month."

Gestamp Wind is the only integrated player that is supplying both wind energy and industrial manufacturing components to South Africa, testament to its long term confidence and commitment to the REIPP programme in South Africa.

Fernandez added, “With this investment South Africa does not need to import any further steel towers for its Renewable Energy Programme and demonstrates that we have been effective in assisting the South African government with fulfilling one of the key objectives of the programme, which is establishing local manufacturing facilities, job creation and transfer of skills in South Africa."

Gestamp Wind recently launched its world-wide sustainability report 2013 in South Africa, which showcases the Noblesfontein Wind Farm socio economic and enterprise development project as the model to be implemented world-wide. Through the Noblesfontein Educational Trust the company trained 36 learners in electrical, electronic and plumbing skills in a 3 year programme, while the Noblesfontein Enterprise Development Trust established SMME businesses in security, birds and bats monitoring, repairs and maintenance, with more opportunities continuously being identified.