South Africa’s biggest wind farm consists of the Khobab and Loeriesfontein 2 sister facilities in the Northern Cape, which provide a total generating capacity of 280MW.
These two plants began commercial operation in December 2017 and can generate about 535GWh of electricity every year.
They currently make up the largest expanse of wind turbines in the country, with a combined 122 turbines spread out over 6,653 hectares of land.
Each of their Siemens SWT-2.3-108 turbines is 152 metres high when measuring from the ground to the tip of a blade at its highest point during the rotation.
Wind turbines start operating at wind speeds as low as 13km/h and cut out if they exceed 90km/h.
The blades rotate between 15 and 20 revolutions per minute at a constant speed.
As the wind makes the blades spin, they turn a rotor connected to a gearbox to convert the motion into electricity.
Typically, a wind turbine can last between 20 and 25 years, with 120,000 hours of continuous operational life.
Aside from providing power to around 240,000 homes, Khobab and Loeriesfontein shed approximately 1.1 million tonnes of carbon emissions each year compared to conventional fossil fuel power plants, like Eskom’s coal-fired power stations.
If considering facilities individually, their respective 140MW capacities still rank these facilities among the biggest wind producers in the country, alongside the 147MW Roggeveld Wind Farm near Matjiesfontein.
The Roggeveld facility entered commercial operation in April 2021 and boasts 47 Nordez 3.15MW AW125/3150 and AW125/3000 turbines, straddling an area covering parts of the Western and Northern Cape.
The turbines offer a 47% capacity factor, which means they should generate a combined 613GWh of electricity every year, enough for around 49,200 households’ yearly consumption.
Although these wind farms aren’t the biggest in Africa—that title belongs to Kenya’s 310MW Lake Turkana Wind Farm—South Africa has the highest number of wind farms on the continent, according to Energy Capital Power.
The government’s list of preferred bidders for Bid Window 5 of the Renewable Energy IPP Procurement (REIPPP) Programme includes ten new 140MW wind farms, one 124W facility, and a smaller 84W station.
Combined, they will add another 1,608MW of maximum capacity to the grid.
Wind is expected to play a significant role in South Africa’s future energy mix, with the Integrated Resource Plan 2019 envisioning the addition of 14,400MW of wind power in South Africa by 2030.
That is equal to the maximum capacity of three Kusile or Medupi power stations.