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.