Wind energy 'cheap and clean'

2012-05-28 14:05
Wind energy like this one offshore in Dronten, the Netherlands, is viable for South Africa, an industry insider has said. (Peter Dejong, AP)

Wind energy like this one offshore in Dronten, the Netherlands, is viable for South Africa, an industry insider has said. (Peter Dejong, AP)

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Cape Town - Renewable energy is past the point of no return and will be accessible at a lower cost than traditional sources, an industry expert has said.

"You can't stop it anymore," Hermann Oelsner, president of Africa Wind Energy Association told News24.

He was speaking on the sidelines of a muted Wind Power Africa Conference & Renewable Energy Exhibition in Cape Town, but said that the financial crisis in Europe and the US as well as political upheaval in North Africa deterred some from travelling there.

"It's not less interest; it's just that everybody is pre-occupied. With the recent European Wind Energy Conference, there are also too many conferences as well: Wherever you look there is upheaval."

Wind energy has been touted as the most effective means of accelerating renewable energy investment and even national energy producer Eskom has advertised its Klipheuwel wind energy facility.

Cost

The turbines at Klipheuwel outside Cape Town are capable of producing energy at a low wind speed of 11km/h to 15km/h, the utility says.

The research unit has a total capacity of 3.16MW and Eskom says the turbines can withstand wind speeds of up to 250km/h.

Oelsner said that SA was in desperate need of additional capacity and renewable energy has become government policy for future energy investment.

"We don't really have a choice because we need, desperately, in this country new generation and we need it quickly. Wind is the only one you can put a lot of megawatts down in a very short time.

"Government has realised it and that's why the bid process was introduced and we will be digging foundations by the end of the year, or early next year [2013] and a lot of turbines will go up," he said.

The cost of energy produced by renewable sources has fallen though the capital costs for construction is higher per kilowatt hour than coal fired power stations.

"The new bidders can now sell electricity for 90c per kilowatt hour and if you're a private consumer in Cape Town, you're paying R1.20 and farmers who have laid their own lines and transformers; they're paying in the same region," said Oelsner.

He added that the price declines for wind and solar energy make it a viable alternative, particularly as electricity prices continue to increase.

"Prices have come down tremendously over the last year - about 30% to 40% - it's becoming a proposition that you put some panels on your roof and make your own electricity."


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