Experts estimate that South Africa has the capacity to develop between 10 gigawatts and 15 gigawatts of wind energy in the future.
Speaking to Business Report at the launch of South African Wind Atlas in Cape Town, South African National Energy Research Institute researcher Andre Otto said the best wind energy locations in South Africa compared “favourably” and “equally” with the best sites internationally.
He cautioned, however, that not every single one of the energy locations on the map would be developed.
“Development will depend on whether the grid is able to access specific locations whether there are industrial facilities nearby and agricultural and environmental considerations,” he said.
wind atlas masts dot the countryside
The SA Wind Atlas consists of ten wind atlas masts situated in Alexander Bay, Calvinia, Vredendal, Sutherland, Beaufort West, Vredenburg, Napier, Noupoort, Humansdorp and Butterworth.
Information contained in the world-class map, which cost about R22 million to produce, showed that South Africa’s wind potential was on par with countries such Denmark, Germany and India.
China is the world leader in wind energy development. The US is also a significant player in the market.
Chief director of cleaner energy Mokgadi Modise said South Africa was now looking into wind power in KwaZulu-Natal, as well as neighbouring countries such as Namibia as part of the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP).
42% must be renewable
As part of the IRP, 42 percent of new energy generations are to come from renewable energies, amounting to a total of 37 000 megawatts of renewable energy, of which 633.99 MW are to be wind energy.
Otto said South Africa had the advantage of renewable energy not yet being monopolised, thus leaving space for small businesses and black economic empowerment enterprises.
“Internationally, renewable energy is the (domain) of the ‘big guys’. The unions (in South Africa) should be concerned. In Denmark the first developers of wind turbines were farmers – then it became big. The question here (in South Africa) is how we bring communities (into the fold). We need to take (the development) to those communities – to see how we can assist them,” Otto said.
Among the challenges accompanying the use of wind energy are a reduction in agricultural-use of land, and environmental considerations such as the effects on bird and bat-life.
Farmers might be tempted to stop farming agricultural land if they could sustain an easier income from selling wind power from their farm, he said.
“The wind atlas research needs to be coupled with agricultural and environmental research,” Otto said.
He said that while wind turbines were expensive to build, these expenses were comparable to those of other clean energies such as solar and hydro energies.
“But the benefits of wind energy are greater than the cost to build (turbines),” Otto said.
By Shanti Aboobaker. Source: IOL