Significant wind farm jobs benefit

Significant wind farm jobs benefit

WIND energy will contribute R7 billion over the next 20 years to the socio-economic development of communities living around South Africa’s wind farms, delegates to the Windaba conference in Cape Town heard yesterday.

Dipolelo Elford, chairwoman of the SA Wind Energy Association (Sawea), said, in addition, jobs would be created at all stages of the average two-year construction phase and during the wind farm’s 20-year lifespan.

Local residents living within a 50km radius of a wind farm would benefit from projects through a percentage of shareholding, a government requirement. Wind farm developers will allocate between 2.5 and 40 percent of shareholding to legal entities representing local communities. The money will be released once the wind farms begin to generate profit, which could take up to 10 years, depending on the amount of energy generated and the cost of development.

There are five South African large-scale wind farms in commercial operation, generating a total of 484MW, and 22 under construction. Another round of wind farms are due to be selected by the government through a fourth round of bidding by wind farm developers. This will add another 700MW of wind power.

Johan van den Berg, chief executive of Sawea, said wind could generate power at one fifth of the cost of Eskom’s open-cycle gas turbines. The diesel-run turbines, used by Eskom to keep the lights on when electricity demand is high, cost R10bn to run last year – R8bn above budget.

Van den Berg said South Africa had a lot of excess pumped-storage generating capacity, but did not have enough power to pump it. Wind power could be used to do this.

“You would be saving R5 by spending R1.”

Wolsley Barnard, acting director-general of the Department of Energy, said it was doubtful if the fourth round of bidding would be held on schedule on November 24. Companies bidding competitively to build wind farms are selected by the government on a range of criteria, cost being a major one.

Barnard said because Eskom was “in a tight situation”, the deadline might not be met, but bidding would happen “as soon after as possible”.

Eskom has to upgrade the grid to be able to connect the renewable energy power plants. In some cases it has been unable to do so and has had to pay renewable energy companies for power they were not generating.

Barnard said part of Eskom’s rescue package from the government was to be used to connect renewable energy power plants to the grid.

Asked about the updated Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), Barnard said there would be an overall reduction of 10 000MW across all generating sectors, including wind, in the IRP’s projections for 2030. This was because the demand forecast for 2030 had been recalculated and was lower than originally forecast.

The IRP, a 20-year electricity blueprint, was established in 2010. It is currently waiting approval by cabinet.

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