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Milestone for SA's wind energy production

In 2011, there were just 10 turbines in SA - now the country has 13 large wind farms, consisting of over 495 turbines.

In 2011, there were just 10 turbines in SA - now the country has 13 large wind farms, consisting of over 495 turbines.

Wind energy has reached a milestone in SA and is now feeding over one gigawatt (GW) of power to the country's electricity grid.

This was revealed by the South African Wind Energy Association (SAWEA), which notes the figure equates to the supply of 511 000 households' average energy consumption. A gigawatt is equal to one billion watts.

Wind energy, which involves using air to turn turbines and generate electricity, is regarded as one of the most reliable, cheap, renewable and clean forms of power that does not pollute the environment in comparison to other types such as thermal.

The South African power system is still coal-driven – 87.4% of net domestic electricity production comes from coal. The contribution of renewables – wind and solar PV – last year was close to 1% (2.2 terawatt-hours, TWh) out of 234TWh in total.

According to statistics recently published by the Global Wind Energy Council, SA is the top producer of wind energy among its African and Middle East peers.

"Wind energy is still a relatively new industry in South Africa and what we have achieved in such a short time is a sure indication of how much more we can do," says Johan van den Berg, CEO of SAWEA.

"In 2011, there were just 10 turbines in the country – now we have 13 large wind farms in operation, consisting of over 495 turbines, with many more under construction. More than 3GW of wind energy has already been allocated through government's Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer's Programme (REIPPPP) – and more is due to be announced shortly," Van den Berg adds.

As well as supplying non-polluting sustainable energy to the country, the REIPPPP criteria ensures developers of renewable energy projects allocate funds to the sustainable development of nearby communities, he points out.

So far, R91.1 billion has been committed to development initiatives through the programme. This number will increase as more projects are procured – dates and allocations for bid window five are due to be announced by government imminently.

SAWEA says as water shortages continue to plague the country, renewable energy is important in saving water.

According to the organisation, for each kilowatt hour of renewable energy that displaces fossil fuels in the national grid, 1.2 litres of water will be saved. At full operation of the entire portfolio, the programme will save 52 million litres of water each year, equal to 371 428 standard-sized bathtubs, it adds.


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