Jeffreys Bay Wind Farm Powers Up

Over the past year, travellers on the N2 passing the turnoff to the surfing paradise of Jeffreys Bay have noticed the appearance of 60 space-age wind turbines towering above the landscape.

Social media reaction to the turbines, covering 3,700 hectares, has mostly been “enormously positive”, says Mark Pickering, GM of Jeffreys Bay Wind Farm.

Mikael Karlsson, CEO of the farm’s developer, Globeleq, asks: “What would you rather have: wind turbines or the plume of smoke from a coal-fired power station?”

Whatever one might think of the visual impact, the benefits of the wind farm, the biggest in Africa , are wide-reaching.

It represents income for the local community; additional and clean electricity for the country; technological and skills development, and a positive experience for the wind farm’s foreign developers that is encouraging them to invest more in South Africa.

The shareholders in the R3bn wind farm are a consortium including Globeleq, an independent power producer focused on Africa and the Americas; Old Mutual’s Ideas Managed Fund, in which local pension fund money is invested; black-owned Thebe Investment Corporation; a global renewable energy developer, Mainstream Renewable Power; the Amandla Omoya Trust, a local community entity with a 6% stake; Enzani Technologies and Usizo Engineering.

The farm was funded partly through equity and partly through debt. The lead arranger was Absa Capital. It has taken only three years from the consortium being awarded the project in the first bidding round of the renewable energy independent producer programme to bringing it into production on time and on budget in May.

Department of Energy deputy director-general of energy programmes and projects Wolsey Barnard said at the wind farm’s inauguration ceremony on Wednesday that South Africa has 14 active independent power producers.

About 1,000 MW of renewable power is due to come on line by the end of this year — there are 19 other projects under construction.

Dr Barnard says Energy Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson will shortly announce the composition of an energy advisory committee, including a broad spectrum of energy experts. The government understands that it needs to facilitate, not hamper, energy projects.

The Jeffreys Bay Wind Farm can generate up to 138MW of electricity when all its turbines are operating at full speed. Eskom’s total power capacity is about 42,000MW.

Construction manager Tom Thoroughgood says the plant is expected to produce on average 41% of its maximum capacity, given the vagaries of wind.

Each turbine at Jeffreys Bay has an 80m tower, three 49m-long blades , a nacelle containing the generator and gearbox, and a transformer box on the ground . The power is fed into a 132kV transmission line from a substation built to Eskom specifications .

The land the turbines straddle is leased from eight farmers. At peak construction there were 602 people on site, of whom 45% were locals . In its operating phase the wind farm will employ only 11 people but the community will receive dividends to spend on development projects.

The minimum local content requirement in round one was 25%, achieved through the project’s civil works, cabling, transformers, substation and project management, says Mr Pickering . In subsequent bidding rounds, local content requirements have increased, encouraging the growth of new manufacturing industries .

Mainstream CEO Eddie O’Connor says the company will participate in the fourth bidding round, even though the price for renewable energy has fallen “dangerously low” since the first round as a result of increased competition .

Last year, another consortium including Mainstream was awarded 360MW of wind energy projects . It will finalise funding later this year and start construction soon afterwards. These projects will bring Mainstream’s investment in renewable energy in SA to R9bn. Its projects in the construction or development phase total about 5,000MW of power.

Mr Karlsson says there are several factors behind the success of the Jeffreys Bay Wind Farm.

The government provided clear and transparent procurement rules and worked with local and international advisers to ensure that the contracts attracted capital.

The private sector also played a role, through the consortium investing part of the capital and the community welcoming the project, he says.

Author: Charlotte Matthews
Source: BD Live