"We expect to start digging for foundations in June or July this year and hopefully light our Christmas trees with green power at the end of the year," says Hermann Oelsner. All the electricity generated will be sold to the Cape Town Municipality. The development will be named Erich Grunwaldt Park in memory of the late managing director of Germany's AN Windenergie, which sold Bonus turbines in Germany. "Erich had the vision to support this project in the early pre-feasibility stages way back in 1996," says Oelsner.
The wind station will be the first privately developed energy plant in South Africa to feed power into the national network. "It is of great significance that this country is now actively on the road to utilising renewable sources of energy generation," says the environment ministry. "This is...of special importance so soon after the ratification of the Kyoto protocol."
The development has been awaiting approval for some four years -- and it is still not over the permitting hurdle. Before construction can begin, a change of land use permit is required from the Swartland Municipality, a process which takes 60 days to allow for consideration of any objections.
A 7.8 MW second phase for a further six wind turbines is planned by Oelsner. "Subject to a successful environmental impact assessment, it could be implemented within two years," he says. "There is a possibility for a third phase of a further ten turbines."
Oelsner also has ambitious plans for a 115 MW wind farm within the Cape Biosphere Reserve, 30 kilometres north of the Darling development. If granted consent, it will be developed in combination with a planned 50 MW solar thermal generating plant within the next five years, he says.
Just three other wind turbines are operating in South Africa, installed by state utility Eskom as a research project. Sited at Klipheuwel on the west coast near Cape Town, they are two Vestas machines -- a 660 kW unit and a 1.75 MW turbine, both of which were commissioned in August 2002 -- while the third is a Jeumont turbine 750 kW turbine from France, commissioned in February 2003.