Wind energy 'can be done'

2012-05-29 20:18

Cape Town - International experience with renewable energy shows that the goal of an energy efficient country can be achieved, an industry insider has said.

"[The US] has just installed 26 000MW over a period of three years which basically tells me that it can be done," Ivan Jones, Wind Power Energy Association vice-president told News24.

SA faces dual problems of pollution due to electricity production via coal-fired plants and heightened demand.

Jones was speaking at the Wind Power Africa Conference & Renewable Energy Exhibition underway in Cape Town and insisted that renewable energy was coming to SA.

"From the perspective of South Africa, we know that it is happening. The fact of the matter is that our government has said that it terms of policy we want 42% of all new energy by 2030 to be renewables.

"My company is a renewable energy developer. We wouldn't have invested money in renewables if we knew it's not going to come."


As electricity demand and prices climb, some have advised the government that there was an urgent need to follow the example of European countries that have mothballed nuclear facilities in the wake of the Fukushima Daiichi plant disaster in Japan.

"As a continent we should be learning from what history has shown about nuclear power: It is a dirty and dangerous source of energy, and one that will always be vulnerable to the deadly combination of human errors, design failures, and natural disasters," said Ferrial Adam anti nuclear campaigner for Greenpeace Africa.

Germany recently reached a renewable energy milestone when it was announced that solar power plants in that country produced a world record 22 gigawatts (GW) of electricity per hour, which is equal to 20 nuclear power stations at full capacity.

Eskom has asked the National Energy Regulator (Nersa) for a cost-related tariff increase that could see electricity prices for domestic consumers increase significantly over a multi-year period.

Jones said that wind power could already deliver reduced cost savings and that accelerated investment into both wind and solar technology could eventually produce 100% of electricity for SA.

"I just heard over the weekend from the CEO of my household that we are paying R1.20 per unit at the moment. The fact is that at 89c, it's already shown that it is very possible."

Eskom has also been touting its green credentials by advertising its Klipheuwel wind energy facility. The facility can produce energy at a low wind speed of 11km/h to 15km/h, and has a maximum capacity of 3.16MW.

Bold moves

Environmental organisations are pushing the government to make bold moves toward renewable energy production, despite often increased start-up cost of the technology.

"On a simple economic basis, solar power became cheaper than nuclear. There's an underlined sub-text going on here: In pure Rand for Rand basis nuclear is a stupid idea," Muna Lakhani, Cape Town branch co-ordinator for Earthlife Africa told News24 recently.

Jones said that renewable energy was feasible and developed countries have shown that capacity can be delivered.

"If you take the example of the US: 50 000MW installed is wind energy. In South Africa, the total amount of energy in the country is 41 000MW, which means that there's 41 000MW of base load energy.

"For the future, I perceive that it will come; for now we think, as long as we have a percentage and 42% in terms of 2030 - it's quite a positive outlook in terms of what our government really wants," he added.

Hermann Oelsner, president of the Africa Wind Energy Association, said that a mindset change was required to fully commit to alternative sources of energy.

"Eskom sells electricity and if we say that 30% or 40% must come from the private sector, this is a total change in the structure of Eskom because they're selling less electricity."

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  • Scott Gilbert - 2012-05-29 21:49

    Tough to fly boeings on wind generated energy! There is no replacement for oil folks. We still need to ship goods around the world. Renewables ain't going to solve that problem.

      phil.losopher.3 - 2012-05-30 05:26

      Let's see..Scott Gilbert works for the oil industry. Find a new job dude.

  • Skia - 2012-05-29 22:15

    why are people so hell bent on trying to use the worst option available? we have to get rid of coal - that's a given. but wind is almost as bad. it's inefficient, creates massive amounts of pollution somewhere else, uses vast amounts of land where the wind is right with no regard for what else the land could be used for, requires a lot of infrastructure and is unreliable. with out grid level storage all energy has it be used as soon as it's produced (there some very promising tech being developed in that field) and with the storage solar makes much more sense.

      renesongs - 2012-05-29 23:12

      Ever hear of a place called "the Cape of Storms" seems like a good place to build an OFFSHORE wind farm.

      phil.losopher.3 - 2012-05-30 05:26

      @Skia - wind creates pollution somewhere else? What are you smoking dude?

      Jacques - 2012-05-30 09:44

      I am not sure if Skia, actually though about his answer. You will always get persons commenting about something, they know very little about. Wind energy is clean, it takes about 6 months of energy generation to offset the carbon, which was produced during manufacture of the towers. Yes wind energy uses vast amounts of land, but the land can co-exisist with agricultural activities for example. It is currently possible to predict the energy output of a particular wind farm, two to three days in advance. This will enable eskom to plan how the energy must used. Wind energy will make up 50% of Denmarks energy output in 2020, if wind energy was so bad why are developing nations planning investments in this area. Just a thought.

      Skia - 2012-05-30 10:00

      yes the wind is clean but the production of the equipment is not. and that place called "the cape of storms" will kill those turbines. for good wind power you need steady predictable wind (you don't get that in the cape).

      diarmid.smith - 2012-06-14 12:16

      Wind power generation can only generate for around 13% of the time, if the wind is blowing too slow or above a certain speed you have to feather the turbines and no power can be generated. Solar cant generate during the night so evening time when demand starts to peak you cant use solar. Hence some form of baseload generation is needed and that currently comes back to either coal or nuclear powered generation. Greenies have this idea that wind and solar is the solution to all the generation problems, but it is very dependent on weather conditions and hence unreliable..... I am currently working on a wind power project in the Cape, its not the reliable means people believe it to be.

  • rowanjacklin - 2012-05-30 08:43

    The 22GW that was generated in Germany was solely from solar sources, not wind. This means that solar can most certainly cover the requirements of the country during certain times.

      Skia - 2012-05-30 10:05

      and something that needs to be tried is setting up all these solar farms in urban areas, on the buildings that are there and tie them into the existing infrastructure.

  • David - 2012-05-30 10:49

    And the truth is out, alternative power options seriously affect Eskom and Municipalities ability to charge ridiculously high pricing for the service. The ideal situation would be to start cutting government out of the loop completely. It is imperative that consumers start using green technology and stop relying on government to supply their needs at inflated profit driven margins.

  • maya.kali.14 - 2012-06-18 17:10

    "CEO of my household that we are paying R1.20 per unit" and the municipalities will probably have an income of 31c per unit. Wind will be between 89.7c to R1.14 per unit, leaving valuable income for municipalities out and draining states resources to subsidize the difference. For every MW of wind power we'll need a MW of power generated by dedicated uneconomically and expensive gas turbines to stabilize the fluctuating output of the wind farms. This will make wind even more expensive for the state and end user and CO2 emissions will not be cut any significant means in such system. Europe and the US are cutting the subsidy tab, and start realizing the experiment has failed. In need for new markets to vampire on, wind is landing on South African shores. Same old exploitation, only this time dressed in a friendly green jacket. visit for more information

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