SA industry targets 170 wind farms in 10 years

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Ntombifuthi Ntuli, CEO of South African Wind Energy Association.
Ntombifuthi Ntuli, CEO of South African Wind Energy Association.

The South African wind energy industry is targeting to build at least 17 wind farms per year over the next 10 years.

Industry body, the South African Wind Energy Association (SAWEA), says SA’s energy transition is poised to unlock economic growth and deliver thousands of much-needed new jobs, at a time when the country faces staggering unemployment rates that threaten to continue well into the new decade.

It points out that thousands of jobs await a ministerial determination to give a green light for the next round of wind farms to be built.

“The positive impact of continued wind farm construction on the economy, over the next 10 years, cannot be overstated. In the construction phase, wind energy projects make a significant impact on jobs in different parts of the value chain,” says Ntombifuthi Ntuli, CEO SAWEA.

The industry body says 12 wind farms are currently being constructed across the country creating thousands of jobs as well as high levels of local content, which is in line with energy minister Gwede Mantashe’s stated imperative that the renewable energy sector, wind stakeholders included, increases its local content efforts.

Load-shedding pain

This as power utility Eskom is struggling to keep the lights on. In a statement today, the parastatal says stage two rotational load-shedding is in effect today and will be implemented tomorrow, owing to a shortage of capacity and a higher demand in electricity.

SAWEA says Perdekraal East Wind Farm, the Western Cape’s largest BW4 wind farm, which is currently under construction and providing local employment to community members of Ceres, Nduli, Bella Vista and Prince Alfred Hamlet, is just one of these projects that are helping to drive the local sector.

“We are pleased to confirm that our obligation for local content exceeds 48% of the total project value, making this a truly South African endeavour,” says Glenn Hobson, construction project manager for Perdekraal East Wind Farm.

SAWEA notes that over the next 10 years, which brings on an average of 17 new wind farms each year, South Africa will see the local manufacturing sector helping to boost economic growth and job creation, two priorities across the African region.

It says tower manufacturing facilities are already set up in the country, with additional capacity and facilities awaiting government’s next bid round as part of the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producers Procurement Programme (REI4P).

“Looking specifically at the manufacturing sector that is poised to create jobs, the annual capacity of 1 600MW per annum translates to 640 individual towers and 1 920 wind turbine blades, each year,” says Ntuli.

According to SAWEA, the existing local tower manufacturing facility in Atlantis, on the Cape’s West Coast, currently produces 150 towers per annum and has created 340 direct jobs and 200 indirect jobs.

Therefore, it says, manufacturing 640 towers locally can potentially create 1 360 direct jobs and about 800 indirect jobs.

Valuable job creation

DCD Wind Towers, in Nelson Mandela Bay, closed its doors in April last year, due to the halted REI4P procurement, says the organisation.

The plant, which has a potential to manufacture up to 300 towers and create 142 direct jobs, is now looking for an investment partner, to revitalise production and local jobs.

Additional potential exists; should wind tower blades and other components such as drive trains be manufactured locally, the number of jobs could easily scale up to the 8 700 estimated by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) analysis, says SAWEA.

The CSIR analysis indicates that for 1.6GW per annum rollout, the wind energy industry can contribute to the creation of more than 16 000 direct jobs per annum in the South African economy during the construction phase alone, given that the aggregate level of localisation of about 50% is realised.

This equates to about 6 400 direct jobs in the construction sector, about 8 700 direct jobs in the manufacturing sector, about 820 direct jobs in the transportation and logistics sector, and about 640 direct jobs in the finance, professional and business services sector.

“The wind energy’s contribution to job creation is often questioned because the jobs are concentrated in the 24 months construction phase of each wind project, hence society tends to dismiss these jobs on the basis of their short-term nature; however, considering the smooth procurement outlined in the 2019 Integrated Resource Plan, 1.6GW is going to be commissioned annually from 2022 to 2030 and will deliver thousands of jobs for a decade,” says Ntuli.

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