While South Africa grapples with constrained power supply and regular load shedding, a quiet revolution in renewable energy is taking place – often in remote and unnoticed parts of the country.
According to Craig Pace, Director at international heavy lift, abnormal transport and installations specialist Vanguard, this revolution has already brought substantial benefits, saving the economy billions of rands in diesel and coal that Eskom would have to have burnt to keep the lights on.
“A recent report from the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) shows that the 1 600 MW of renewable energy installed by December 2014 has saved the country over R5 billion,” says Pace.
He says that 32 renewable energy projects had already been completed and connected to the grid, with government planning to more than double this figure by reaching 3 625 MW by 2030.
“What is really encouraging about these developments is that they are producing electricity at a very competitive cost – so that the net financial benefits of renewables will remain positive even in future when the national grid is less constrained.”
The Integrated Energy Research Centre at CSIR reported that the cost per kilowatt/hour (kWh) of renewable energy for new projects is now well below R1 for solar photo-voltaic (PV) production and between 60c-80c for wind projects.
“The government’s three Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REIPPPP) bid windows have procured more than 60 renewables projects, with combined capacity of 3 900 MW,” Pace notes. “Another 77 bids were received in the fourth REIPPPP window last year, indicating the enthusiasm and investment appetite of many foreign companies.”
The private investment associated with the projects procured to date amounts to R140 billion.
Vanguard has been integrally involved with a number of pioneering wind farms around South Africa in recent years, according to Pace.
“We have engineered efficient solutions for dealing with the large and complex wind turbine components being imported for wind farm projects – from discharging the vessel, specialised transport requirements to the hard stands, on-site lifting/erection and electrical installations of 108 wind turbine generators,” he points out.
Among the recent contracts completed have been the West Coast One wind farm near Vredenburg on the Western Cape coast, where Vanguard erected 20 Vestas V90 2.0 MW turbine generators with its GTK1100 crane, and the Chaba wind farm near Komga in the Eastern Cape, where the company discharged seven Vestas V112-3.0 MW wind turbine generators from the vessel, off-loaded into a storage area, and reloaded for transport to the wind farm.
Other projects include the Grassridge wind farm, also near Port Elizabeth, the Noblesfontein wind farm near Victoria West in the Northern Cape, and Metrowind’s Van Stadens wind farm in the Eastern Cape.
“These contracts have shown that Vanguard is the only South African-owned company with the expertise and capacity – including fully-licensed and registered equipment – to offer a full turnkey project solution to the growing wind-energy market,” says Pace. “Our commitment to clients is always to deliver on time and within budget, without compromising safety.”
Vanguard’s fleet of specialised equipment includes the GTK 1100 telescopic mobile tower crane – the only unit in the Southern Hemisphere – which has proved invaluable in many of the wind farm installations.