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South Africa set for start-up of wind farm as energy investment programmes move ahead

Out-Law News | 21 Nov 2014 | 10:51 am | 1 min. read

South Africa’s Sere Wind Farm is set to be commissioned next month, as part of investment in infrastructure for the transition to a low-carbon economy, the World Bank has announced.

The bank said Sere, the first commercial-scale wind energy project it has financed in support of national power utility Eskom, will be “an important complement to South Africa’s private-sector renewable energy programme”.

According to the bank, the transformers on the first string of seven wind turbine generators were energised earlier this month. The facility is set to start full commercial operation by the end of March 2015.

The development of the 100-megawatt (MW) Sere is part of South Africa’s efforts to diversify its energy mix and cut the country’s reliance on coal. The facility is projected to cut carbon dioxide emissions by up to six million tonnes over 20 years, the bank said. “With an average annual energy production of about 298,000 megawatt hours, Sere will supply sufficient energy to the grid to power approximately 124,000 standard homes,” the bank said.

Sere, which was built on the Atlantic coast around 300 kilometres north of Cape Town by main contractor Siemens Wind Power A/S, covers more than 3,700 hectares with 46 wind power turbines. The combined weight of all the turbine generator components, which were transported to the site from Saldana Bay by road, is 470 tonnes.

World Bank Group lead energy specialist Paivi Koljonen said: “The project is an important complement to South Africa’s private-sector renewable energy programme as it demonstrates a utility scale wind power plant built to the latest technology standards to maximise energy output.”

In addition to Sere, Eskom is developing a 100 MW Concentrating Solar Plant project near Upington in the Northern Cape. That project, which is in the procurement stage, is also supported by development finance institutions including the World Bank and Climate Investment Funds.

The Eskom Renewables Support Project aims to accelerate development of large scale renewable energy capacity by supporting construction of facilities such as Sere and “associated infrastructure” for the connection of wind and renewable energy from independent power producers, the bank said.

According to the bank, wind resource in South Africa as a whole is estimated at “moderate to low, with the estimated highest capacity factor about 26%”.

Up to 95% of South Africa’s electricity is currently generated by coal-fired power stations and the country is among the world’s top 25 producers of greenhouse gases, according to government figures. The country is now looking to invest in new generation facilities, rationalise consumption and diversify its energy mix.

As of November 2013, South Africa was rated as the 12th most attractive investment destination for renewable energy, according to the government, which recently approved an additional 17 renewable energy projects.