South Africa

South Africa

Tender results signal new dawn for wind development

SOUTH AFRICA: After a long, frustrating wait, the wind-power market is finally beginning to heat up in South Africa. The first round of the government tender for up to 3.73GW under the renewable-energy independent power producer (IPP) programme, which closed in November, attracted 53 bids totalling around 2.1GW.

Wind power projects account for 50% of the bids, solar 48% and the rest small hydro. Foreign developers showed a strong interest, said Ompi Aphane, deputy director general of the Department of Energy (DoE).

Bids will be assessed first on economic aspects, such as black empowerment, community development and local manufacturing propositions, then on price. The DoE was hoping to announce the preferred bidders during the United Nations' annual climate-change convention in Durban at the end of last month. A second bidding round is scheduled to close on 5 March and will be followed by three subsequent rounds, with a total capacity of up to 1.85GW for wind power up for grabs.

Given the emphasis on local procurement, it is not surprising that turbine manufacturers are keeping close watch on the market. Among the big players, Suzlon, Gamesa, Vestas and Goldwind have all opened offices in South Africa in recent months.

But the first company to manufacture multi-megawatt turbines locally will be Cape Town-based Isivunguvungu Wind Energy Converter (I-WEC), which will produce 2.5MW machines under licence from German engineering consultancy Aerodyn Energiesysteme.

In late October, I-WEC, which is two-thirds owned by South African heavy-engineering giant DCD-Dorbyl, took delivery of a 40-tonne mould imported from China for making 50-metre blades. It is now installed at a temporary facility at Cape Town's Table Bay Harbour, near I-WEC's nacelle assembly workshop. I-WEC expects to erect its first turbine early next year close to the port of Saldanha, north of Cape Town, as a reference model.

The next step is to produce a pre-series of five turbines destined for a demonstration plant at Saldanha next year. The company is at an "advanced stage" in the authorisation process, said Thomas Schaal, I-WEC's financial director.

I-WEC expects to open a blade factory at Saldanha in 2013 for series production of up to 600 blades a year. At the same time, it will ramp up its nacelle assembly to 200 units, supplying both local and export markets. The steel towers will be manufactured by DCD-Dorbyl. Ultimately, up to 70% of the turbine's components will be sourced locally, creating up to 100 direct jobs over the next two years and around 400 in 2016, depending on market conditions.

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