News

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.

Gosling delighted at reporting award

CAPE Times environmental writer Melanie Gosling is “delighted” at receiving an award by the South African Wind Energy Association (Samwea) for the best journalistic coverage of wind energy.

“Throughout the last decade, Melanie has reported on environmental matters in a highly informed and professional manner.

“In the past few years, she has taken care to understand energy-related issues and has reported on the development of the wind industry in a contextualised, responsible and balanced manner,” Samwea chief executive Johan van den Berg said.

“As South Africa enters an era where wind will be part of both our physical and political landscapes, her work on a complex topic evoking strong emotions from different quarters has set an example to her colleagues.”

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Gosling, who has been a reporter for the Cape Time for more than 20 years said she was delighted with the award. – Staff Writer

Special zone for Atlantis on the cards

A LARGE portion of land in Atlantis could be declared a special economic zone, focused specifically on the green industries sector, Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies said on Wednesday.

Special economic zones for the green manufacturing sector are still to be promulgated, but Mr Davies said an advisory board, to make recommendations on their establishment, was likely to be appointed "within the next month".

Atlantis was chosen because of its large tracts of unused industrial land and because of its proximity to the Saldanha Bay Industrial Development Zone.

Atlantis has suffered from significant job losses and green manufacturing is seen a key job driver.

Companies working in special economic zones qualify for a range of incentives, such as a 15% corporate tax rate, a building tax allowance, an employment tax incentive, value added tax exemption and a duty free provision.

"In the next year we will see some decisions being taken," Mr Davies said. "We have to go through the processes, we have to weigh up the feasibility studies … we work with provinces, and all the provinces identified potential special economic zones."

On Wednesday, Mr Davies officially opened the R300m Gestamp Renewable Industries wind tower manufacturing plant in Atlantis, which is expected to create 200 jobs. Chinese electronics company Hisense opened a factory in Atlantis last year.

Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille said the Gestamp plant was the first major investment the city had attracted through its pilot investment incentive scheme launched last year. "The hard financial incentives that we make available include the exemption of application fees for land and building plans and waiving development facilitation fees. We write off debt when businesses meet employment targets, enabling job creation through direct investments," Ms de Lille said.

The Western Cape has attracted about R20bn in actual and planned investment in renewable energy in the past five years, and more than R30bn in overall foreign direct investment in the past three years.

R300m Atlantis wind-turbine tower factory offers light at the end of the tunnel

With South Africa currently in the grip of debilitating rolling black-outs and load shedding due to the Eskom power grid being stretched to capacity, and exacerbated by a loss of capacity at its Majuba power station in Mpumalanga, it comes as a ray of light that GRI – Renewable Industries officially announced the opening of their new R300m wind turbine tower production facility in Atlantis, Cape Town.

South Africa's steady economic growth and focus on industrialisation, together with its mass electrification program has seen a steep increase in the demand for electricity, to the point where South Africa’s energy demand is expected to double by 2030. Adequate provision for this massive demand has been hampered by various factors, suffice to say that the rapid search for alternative energy sources is a priority. The government is encouraging the search for new sustainable energy practices with various tax incentives, helping businesses and local government to actively seek tangible and immediate solutions to this growing problem. The government is also looking to support sustainable green energy initiatives on a national scale through a diverse range of clean-energy options as envisaged in an Integrated Resource Plan. In terms of this plan, which is a 20-year projection on electricity demand and production, about 42% of electricity generated must come from renewable resources.

The R300m investment from Spanish corporate, GRI Renewable Industries offers South Africa a giant leap forward in the provision of renewable energy alternatives with the facility capable of producing 150 wind towers a year.

Javier Imaz, CEO of GRI, comments, “Our investment in this new state of the art wind turbine tower production facility clearly demonstrates our long-term commitment to South Africa and also positions GRI Wind as open for business and willing to partner local enterprises to develop sustainable wind energy facilities in South Africa.”

The 12,000m² factory, situated in the Green Technology Industrial Park in Atlantis, about 40km from Cape Town, will help propel South Africa into the renewable energy market, with more investment planned for the future. The state of the art facility integrates the use of energy saving technologies designed to maximise the benefits of natural lighting and ventilation. The 350m long factory has custom-designed storage space, allowing each completed tower section to be stored on site. Each section can weigh up to 90 tons, and measure 38m in length, and five metres in diameter. In addition there is permanently installed logistic machinery to move and load the completed sections. 

The company hopes to reach full production volume in 18 months, and in the process will develop a highly skilled and motivated workforce, contributing towards sustainable and responsible power generation. Atlantis has always suffered from high unemployment rates, and this project will not only create 200 permanent jobs, but new skills will be taught that currently do not exist in this country. Local and overseas experts will invest in identifying and training the new labour force and up-skilling them to be able to provide the necessary service to perform their jobs to the highest standards, leading to much needed social upliftment within this local community. This is the first investment that the City of Cape Town has attracted through its pilot Investment Incentive Scheme in Atlantis, and is testament to the City’s emphasis on partnerships to make progress possible.

A recently completed wind power project at Noblesfontein located near Victoria West in the Northern Cape has a capacity of approximately 74MW achieved through the installation of 41 turbines. This plant forms part of the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement programme managed by the Department of Energy and has Purchase Power Agreements with Eskom for the next twenty years of operation.

Mr Imaz concludes, “Not only will this investment offer a realistic solution to the current fragile power situation, but we will be deploying and sharing our know-how with the local market and at the same time generating additional job creation opportunities. We see a bright future for South African-developed renewable energy, both locally and also in Africa, not just as users but suppliers as well."

South Africa’s energy system on knife-edge – NPC commissioner

State-owned power utility Eskom is in very real danger of a ratings downgrade, with the energy system on knife-edge at the moment, warns Professor Anton Eberhard, a member of the National Planning Commission (NPC).

South Africa has been plunged into an energy crisis, which Eberhard says is the worst in 40 years. Outages have been commonplace despite peak power demand falling below 2007 levels and actual electricity use far below forecasts.

Maintenance problems and four-year delays in the construction of Medupi and Kusile, in Limpopo and Mpumalanga respectively, are putting immense strain on the system.

“In the past three years, we’ve lost the equivalent of an entire coal[-fired] power station through deteriorating plant availability. Of 87 coal-generating units, 32 need major surgery and three are in a critical condition,” Eberhard told delegates at the WINDaba, in Cape Town, on Tuesday.

Eskom has conceded in Parliament that it cannot guarantee electricity supply security for at least another five years.

Eberhard stressed that clarity on South Africa’s broader energy plan was needed.

Outlining the NPC’s Energy Vision and Plan for South Africa, he suggested that serious and urgent action was needed, particularly on the gas master plan, adding that the economics of the new Mozambique gas pipeline needed to be explored, as well as deep offshore drilling.

Eberhard said the contribution of renewable energy was very important, particularly as solar prices had fallen 68% within the last three years, with a 42% drop in the price of wind energy.

The WINDaba has brought together several hundred people who are keen to strengthen their stake in the wind energy industry.

The prospect of nuclear power currently appeared far more debatable, particularly if demand for electricity in the long run was lower owing to slower economic growth. Eskom’s power systems economist, Keith Bowen, noted that projections had been lowered.

“If demand is lower, then we only need nuclear in 2037. It calls into question why all the focus on nuclear at this stage?”

“If electricity demand will be lower and nuclear prices are above $6 500/kW, then rather go for gas and other options,” suggested Eberhard, mentioning that the latest nuclear plant in the UK cost $8 150/kW.

Acting CE of Business Unity South Africa Cas Coovadia said he was concerned both about the maintenance of power stations, particularly Majuba, in Mpumalanga, which was only 13 years old, as well as confusing communication around the power outages being experienced at present.

“The silo collapse does point to poor engineering and maintenance. We need to look at maintenance and where the stations are being built,” Coovadia expressed.

He said mixed messages from City Power in Johannesburg and Eskom about outages this week, following the collapse of the Majuba silo, were creating havoc for the business community.

Independent power producer Globeleq GM Mark Pickering pointed out that he was worried that government’s renewable energy programme was not properly institutionalised.

“It can be turned off with the stroke of a pen,” he stated.

Eberhard agreed. “We need to embed this in an institutional system

Wind Farms to Generate over $633M in Revenue for South Africa

Delegates on day one of the South African Wind Energy Association 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.

“Utility scale wind energy is already boosting economic development in South Africa. Industry and government are committed to ensuring that these benefits are realized by small business and local communities across the country,” explains Dipolelo Elford, Chairperson of the South African Wind Energy Association (SAWEA).

As per the design of the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producers Procurement Program (REIPPPP), each utility-scale wind farm invests a percentage of its revenue towards socio-economic development (and in some cases enterprise development) in the areas surrounding the farm. Additionally, shares in the wind farm project company are allocated to an entity representing local residents within a 50km radius.

The revenue percentage and dividends from the shares in the farm will benefit the local economies and residents over the full lifetime of the wind farms: 20 years. The amounts invested will be substantial – more than ZAR 7 Billion based just on current allocations, with more large scale development expected through to 2030. This figure compares favorably to that of direct investments made into communities in more mature wind energy markets in Europe and the United States.

SAWEA considers delivery on its socio economic compact with government as core to its mandate. ‘Power2thePeople: changing lives through wind energy’ is the theme for its annual conference Windaba, which will be held in Cape Town from 3-5 November. Ongoing discussions and experience sharing will take place on the subject of working with communities and how funds can be most effectively invested. A workshop running alongside Windaba, hosted by SAWEA’s Wind for Communities working group will focus entirely on SED and how the full potential of community benefits can be realized.

Post graduate students Sarah Stands and Holle Wlokas are researching the economic development commitments and practical outcomes of the REIPPPP and will be participating in both the conference and workshop to share their findings to date. Part of this research involves analyzing procurement documents and ongoing implementation of projects in relation to the effects on long-term local economic development and employment. Both women are also members of the South African Wind Energy Association’s ‘Wind for Communities’ working group, hosts to the SED workshop.

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.