R55bn for wind energy
With SA facing crippling power shortages, the private sector has invested R55 billion in the wind energy industry over the past three years.
This was revealed by the South African Wind Energy Association (SAWEA), commemorating Global Wind Day this week.
According to Johan van den Berg, CEO of SAWEA, all the money to build new wind farms is presently privately sourced. Government is supporting the process by providing a 20-year commitment to buy the power at an agreed price from the lowest bidders, he explains.
All energy investments are capital-intensive, he points out, adding a 20 000MW wind sector in today's terms might cost R430 billion, which is still less than half the projected cost of a nuclear fleet of half the size.
This capital can all be sourced privately and, over a 15-year timeline, is fundable as long as the government continues to supply long-term agreements to purchase the power. "This model places no risk on the taxpayer or ratepayer for cost over-runs or delays."
SAWEA says over the past three years, the wind energy industry has made immense achievements in the country. SA has gone from having just eight wind turbines in 2012 to 294 - just three years later, the association says.
"A turbine equates roughly to 2.5MW and the ultimate industry in the country is likely to exceed 20 000MW. Turbines are getting more powerful so we will ultimately have perhaps 7 000 turbines in the country, perhaps by 2030 or 2035," says Van den Berg.
The wind body adds more than R7 billion has already been allocated to community uplift and socio-economic development from wind farms being developed under the government's Renewable Energy Independent Power Producers Procurement Programme (REIPPPP).
This figure will increase significantly over the next three to four years as thousands more megawatts of wind energy are built, it states.
According to SAWEA, 19 414 person years of jobs were created by wind farms given the go ahead in REIPPPP Rounds 1 - 93.5% of those jobs were/are being carried out by South Africans and locally trained technicians.
It notes wind energy guaranteed that 117 hours of load-shedding were avoided in 2014 - this equals nine gigawatt hours and an equivalent value of R800 million. Wind energy also saved R1.7 billion in coal and diesel fuel in 2014.
Based on latest estimates for Medupi Coal Power Station, currently under construction, SAWEA says newest prices for wind power under the REIPPPP are 40% cheaper per electricity unit than the newest coal.
It also reveals wind power in 2014 saved more money than it cost - it was cash positive by R300 million, and that's cash benefit for Eskom directly, and it avoided R800 million worth of unserved energy.
To boost wind energy production in SA, Van den Berg says for the short and medium-term, government can just continue as is, with the REIPPPP programme.
"We think it can be improved but it works well. For the medium to long-term, we need to strengthen the national grid and start taking it to windy places where there is presently a shortage of evacuation capacity. This takes time so we have to start now."
He notes SA has come from a very low base to "race up the charts". "By 2020 we might be in the world top 10 in absolute size of our industry. But we can do far more. Our total share of wind power in the grid is approximately 2.5% of Denmark's."