South Africa got about 1,150MW of wind energy approved by government

The SA Wind Energy Association (Sawea) chief executive Johan van den Berg said yesterday the wind energy industry was ready to accelerate their programme to avoid “fallout from further construction delays and cost over-runs at the coal-fired Medupi station”.

“We’ve got about 1 150MW of wind energy approved by government and more than 600MW is under construction. Most of this will come online before winter of 2014. Our members have dozens of projects ready to commence construction within six months, all of which can be commissioned within 18 to 24 months,” Van den Berg said.


Medupi will have a capacity of 4 800MW, made up of six units of 800MW. The first unit was due to come online in December, but has been delayed until the second half of next year.


Van den Berg said in addition to the 600MW of wind energy plants being built now, another 550MW had been approved by government. Bids for the third round of approvals would close in August.


The Department of Energy approves new wind power producers through a competitive bid programme. While all projects must be at a stage that is ready to be built immediately, not all bidders will be successful as the government has set a limit on the amount of wind energy it will approve.


“We need to utilise the readiness of those bidders who would not succeed under the current allocation. They are ready, willing and able to commence construction almost immediately. Additional wind power has already been approved by the minister of energy. If we bring that forward, more power will be on the grid faster at a very attractive price,” he said.


Van den Berg said if one compared the cost of wind energy to that of “new coal” – coal-fired power stations currently being built – wind energy cost 89c a kilowatt hour and coal 97c/kWh.


A North West University study found the “external cost” of coal, which included pollution and water usage, added another 90c/kWh to the cost. This made coal twice as expensive as wind.


Van den Berg said coal was used for “baseload” electricity generation, but wind could play a big part in generating electricity for peak demand. Wind was far cheaper that traditional peaker plants, which cost R4 to R6.93 k/Wh.


“With wind you can bank on a capacity of 25 percent. That means if you build a 100MW plant you will always get 25MW. But with a good wind plant you can have up to 40 percent.”


He said when Medupi was first announced, it cost R52bn and it was due to come online by mid-2011. It will now come online in mid-2014.


Sawea says with the cost of Medupi’s flue-gas desulphurisation, its total cost would be around R155bn. Eskom said this week the cost would be R105bn.