Wind Power in Southern Africa

Wind power generation currently plays a negligible role in the energy mix of the 12 countries making up the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP) but the situation is expected to improve slightly over the coming years.

This according to Alison Chikova, chief engineer of the SAPP, during his presentation at the Wind Power Africa conference recently held in Cape Town.

The SAPP member countries are Angola, Botswana, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Coal-fired power plants currently account for 74.3% of the SAPP’s generation capacity. This is followed by hydro power (20.1%), nuclear power (4%) and gas/diesel (1.6%). In April 2010, the entire SAPP region had a total installed capacity of 55,996 megawatts (MW) of which 48,849 MW were available.

Some of the current wind farms in Southern Africa include two wind farm facilities in South Africa’s Western Cape Province (Klipheuwel and wind farm Darling); various 21 kilowatts wind turbines / solar hybrids in Malawi; and some small facilities in Zimbabwe. A 10 MW wind energy pilot project in Chicumbane in Mozambique is also under development.

In addition, Belgian green electricity company, Electrawinds, has begun the construction of a wind turbine in the harbour of Coega, near Port Elizabeth, South Africa. The development is the first phase of a large wind farm that, in time, will comprise 25 wind turbines.

In terms of future capacity building, wind power is expected to play a marginally bigger role.

Of the total new generation projects in the region expected to come on stream in 2011, wind energy comprises 1.5%. This will come entirely from a 25 MW project in the Lesotho highlands.

In 2012, 3.6% of new generation projects will be wind power. These include a 100 MW wind power project from an independent power producer (IPP) in South Africa and a 40 MW IPP project in Luderitz, Namibia.

In 2013, a 40 MW wind farm project from an IPP in South Africa’s Eastern Cape will make up 1% of the entire new generation capacity expected to come on stream during the year.

Despite the projects that have already been announced, South Africa is promoting 2,500 MW of wind power by 2015.

Compared to other parts of the world, wind energy generation in Southern Africa still has a long way to go. Carlos Gasco, executive committee member of the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC), during his address at the conference, said that the world’s top five wind energy producers are currently the United States (installed capacity of 35,064 MW), China (25,805 MW), Germany (25,777 MW), Spain (19,149 MW) and India (10,926 MW).

According to Chikova, some of the challenges to the adoption of wind power in the SAPP region include:

* Carbon emission trading and carbon rights need to be investigated in the region
* Technical barriers to the adoption of wind energy exist in some countries
* There needs to be a review of how the new technologies connect to the transmission grid
* Communication between wind generators and power distributors needs to be improved
* There needs to be better forecasting of wind patterns and generation

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) has set itself a target of generating 20% of the region’s energy needs from renewable sources by 2025.

“The wind energy potential [in the SAPP region] is massive,” Chikova said. He added that a lot can be achieved if governments are serious about what they want and called on wind technology developers to come onboard to reduce carbon emissions and bring about new technologies.

Belgian electricity company, Electrawinds, has begun the construction of a wind turbine in the harbour of Coega, near Port Elizabeth, South Africa.

The development marks first commercial wind project in South Africa as well as the start of the first phase of a large wind farm that, in time, will comprise 25 wind turbines. For Electrawinds, this will be the first operational project outside Europe.

The wind turbine has been built in the Industrial Development Zone (IDZ) in Coega, a new harbour area at the Indian Ocean. It is a VESTAS V90 with a 95 metre tower and a 90 metre rotor diameter. The turbine has a capacity of 1.8 megawatts which translates into an annual yield of 5,700,000 kWh and equals the annual electricity consumption for 1,700 families (based on an average annual consumption of 3,500 kWh).

“In Belgium, Electrawinds is one of the pioneers of renewable energy and has, in the meantime, built up great know-how. It is now our ambition to fulfill that pioneering role in South Africa as well. There is great support there for renewable energy and this offers good prospects,” says Luc Desender, managing director of Electrawinds.

“We want to invest not only in turbines but also in people. Electrawinds is committed to establishing an education fund for students interested in renewable energy,” says Jan Dewulf, director of business development at Electrawinds.