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South Africa: Study of West Coast wind farm begins

Eskom's plan to develop South Africa's first commercial wind farm on a 25km2 site just inland from the beach and opposite Vredendal on the West Coast is gathering momentum.
The site, about 25km north of the mouth of the Olifants River, is to have 100 wind turbines each producing up to two megawatts (MW) of power.

An environmental impact assessment (EIA) of the project is under way.

According to a background information document, there is increasing pressure on countries around the world to increase their share of renewable energy, particularly because of global climate change and the non-sustainable exploitation of other energy sources such as oil, coal and gas.

The South African government has set a 10-year target of 10 000 gigawatt hours (GWh) of renewable energy by 2013, to be produced mainly from wind, solar, biomass (plant material) and small-scale hydro sources.

This amounts to about 4% (or 1 667MW) of the total estimated demand for electricity (41 539MW) by 2013.

Eskom has embarked on a research programme to investigate local sources of renewable energy and identify appropriate alternative solutions, the document states.

Wind is considered a "non-consumptive" use of natural resources, and the wind generation of electricity produces no greenhouse gases, although some are produced in the building and maintenance phases of the wind farm operation.

A wind energy facility also qualifies as a clean development mechanism (CDM) project under the Kyoto Protocol on global warming, meaning it also has a commercial value as a tradable commodity.

In February 2003, Eskom commissioned its small wind energy demonstration model at Klipheuwel near Durbanville, to look at the generation of wind energy in the South African environment and factors that affected performance of a wind farm.

As part of Eskom's research, a national wind atlas for South Africa was compiled with the help of the CSIR and the Department of Minerals and Energy. Areas with high potential for future commercial wind farm development were identified, and high-accuracy meteorological stations were erected there for monitoring.

"Based on the Klipheuwel pilot demonstration facility and measured wind data, a full-scale commercial wind energy facility is now being proposed on the West Coast."

The proposed site, close to the town of Koekenaap, covers 35km2 on three farms in the municipality of Matzikama. The 100 turbines are to be erected on about 25km2.

The three-bladed turbines are designed to operate continuously and unattended for up to 20 years, requiring only low maintenance.

The facility, which is to take about two years to build and commission, is to need just six permanent staffers.

Additional information:
News date: 15/08/2007

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