BioTherm Energy pioneer’s avifauna zero-loss programme

Working in collaboration with conservation organisations, BioTherm Energy’s Excelsior Wind Energy Facility, in the Western Cape, is pioneering the wind industry’s approach to conserving avifauna. The programmes that are being implemented go beyond looking at the potential impact of their wind farm on birds through mitigation, but are also aimed at a net gain in priority species, including Cape Vulture, Black Harrier, Verreaux’s Eagle and Martial Eagle. 

The on-site mitigation programme to avoid losses includes an industry-first implementation of an observer-led ‘Shut Down on Demand’ (SDOD) system for priority species.

The SDOD system is implemented through notification by a team of bird monitors to the wind farm’s on-site operations room, where individual wind turbines are switched off when the priority species are in the vicinity and switched on again once the bird has passed by.

This SDOD system, which was piloted in August 2020 before being fully implemented, has to date resulted in no less than sixty SDODs being successfully called for.

“This direct mitigation through shutdowns has resulted in zero loss of priority species to date, meaning that we can proudly say that there have been no turbine collision fatalities so far, and we expect the same into the future.”

Libby Hirshon, BioTherm Energy’s Sustainability Director

Additionally, the programme provides local job creation. The eight biodiversity monitors, who are predominately female, in addition to their supervisor, have been recruited from the surrounding communities.  The team of monitors is sited at three vantage points, seven days a week, and is responsible for the implementation of this rigorous programme through active communication with the operators.

BioTherm Energy also recognises that in the Overberg region, where the Excelsior Wind Energy Facility is situated, many bird species are also susceptible to powerline collisions, which has been well documented by the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT). This poses a significantly greater threat to certain species than wind turbines, including South Africa’s national bird, the Blue Crane.

“We approached the EWT to discuss potential conservation initiatives, and the result was the rollout of over four thousand bird flight diverters to mitigate avifauna fatalities along high-risk powerlines near, but not directly associated with, our project. We believe that this initiative will prevent needless collisions by Blue Cranes, Cape Vultures, and a host of other raptors. We have no doubt that, through this kind of collaboration, we can create innovative solutions where both conservation and renewable energy can coexist and even enhance each other,” commented Hirshon.

The EWT’s Wildlife and Energy Programme Programme Manager, Lourens Leeuwner, was recently reported in the media saying, “It is extremely encouraging to see an IPP actively seeking opportunities to conserve priority bird species in the regions surrounding their facilities. BioTherm Energy is actively engaging with project partners and looking to bolster conservation initiatives around their wind energy facilities”.

The wind farm’s off-site conservation activities also include work with the Overberg Renosterveld Conservation Trust (ORCT) to provide funding for the securing of easements for the protection of the Renosterveld (a critical habitat for the Black Harrier).

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Offshore wind: the new gold rush

A variety of factors are making the offshore wind industry a strong candidate for growth, but market dynamics are creating uncertainty. While traditional players are pursuing aggressive growth strategies, new entrants are reshaping the landscape.

The offshore wind industry is gaining momentum thanks to ambitious environmental targets, competitive costs, and huge market potential. This renewable source of energy provides an optimal load factor, minimising the need for electricity storage or complementary dispatchable sources of energy. The public sector has been rushing the field with new players, including oil and gas companies, creating a strong push for investments in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis.

Ambitious national targets

Since the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference, most governments have launched energy transition strategies and are adopting a variety of approaches to decarbonize.1 Historically, offshore wind development mostly took place in Europe in the North Sea, and China has set ambitious targets for offshore wind. But so far, the United States has been less ambitious. The European Union (EU) is aiming to install between 230 and 450 GW of capacity by 2050, and China announced 175 GW over the same horizon. Meanwhile, the United States is aiming for only about 85 GW. Although there is less visibility on China’s road map, offshore wind could help accelerate the end of coal power—improving air quality and ensuring energy security along the way.

Competitive economics

The economics of offshore wind are improving as the costs come down and the energy source becomes more competitive with not only fossil fuels but also other renewable technologies, including solar photovoltaics (PV) and onshore wind.2 As wind turbines grow (up to 12 MW and already announced 15 MW), the load factor could reach new records— above 60 percent—making offshore wind technology even more cost-competitive in the future.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) predicts a sharp decline of offshore wind’s levelised cost of electricity (LCOE) until 2040, down from about €150 per MWh to €25 to €45 MWh depending on the geographic setting.3 This has enabled a key change with the emergence of subsidy-free bids (see figure 1).4

Huge energy potential

Despite significant growth over the past several years, mostly in Europe, offshore wind is still a very small share of world power production (68 GWh in 2018, or about 0.3 percent) and installed capacity (28 GW in 2018, or about 0.4 percent).Technical sources offer a power potential of more than 25,000 GW globally, with the United States having the largest offshore wind technical potential both for near-shore and far-from-shore zones (more than 10,000 GW).

Offshore wind capacity is expected to grow by about 25 GW per year over the next two decades, activating a limited share of technical potential.Furthermore, offshore wind is displaying strong resilience amid the Covid-19 pandemic with annual capex expected to equal offshore oil and gas capex both in Europe by 2021 and in the United States over the next decade. 7

Market dynamics are creating new tensions in the offshore wind industry

Attractive growth prospects are creating complexities and challenges in four areas:

Regional specificities with uneven strategies

The development of offshore wind is influenced by local market factors, and countries are adopting a variety of approaches to foster renewables growth:8

Energy security. This is a key incentive for the EU, but the United States is less concerned despite benefiting from the world’s largest source of offshore wind. The EU has defined a clear ambition with a strong commitment from countries and structured supporting policies, including the Green Deal, potentially boosted by the Next Generation EU recovery plan.

Wind turbine manufacturing capacity. This is well-established in the EU, with leading capacities already deployed in the North Sea. In the United States, offshore wind is still an emerging market, with only 30 MW of installed capacity in the first half of 2020. In the United States, despite strong fundamentals such as the technical potential and support mechanisms, full development of the offshore wind value chain is far from achieved and will require structured support. In China, offshore wind should benefit from a centralized administration, adequate infrastructures, potentially huge wind turbine manufacturing capacities, and logistics capabilities. This implies short contracting procedures, government support, and no public acceptance issues.

Power grid flexibility and regulation. These areas could provide additional complexity and embed various integration capacities, such as grid connection technologies, bidding processes and contracts, merit order, and support mechanisms for connection costs. Even if some countries have already reached their integration capacity, the European network is very well integrated, providing additional capacity for offshore wind integration. The US power grid is fragmented and has a limited capacity to deal with a large share of intermittent electricity. China’s power grid is integrated, which would favor the integration of wind power. Finally, large hydro-storage capacities provide the ideal combination with wind offshore.

Larger and more complex scope

This year marked a step-change in the size of wind farms, with the largest wind farm size doubled compared with past years (see figure 2). In addition, hybridisation with other technologies will be crucial for economic and environmental viability. Recent bids show a combination of offshore wind with green H2 (electrolysis). For example, in July, Shell and Eneco were awarded a tender to create a wind farm-powered green hydrogen hub.9

On the technology side, floating solutions can unlock additional upsides. They address the largest technical potential of offshore wind (72 percent of offshore wind’s technical potential is in deepwater) and higher load factors, driven by better wind conditions. In addition, floating solutions enjoy better acceptability and reduce usage conflicts with other sea activities, such as fishing, coastal navigation, and recreation. However, several challenges are yet to be addressed, including the high upfront cost and long project timeline, the infrastructure needed to assemble turbines, and full-scale testing and demonstration (coping with pitching and rolling, resisting harsher weather conditions, and handling cable complexity). The design of floating solutions is also still at an early stage of development.

Wind turbine blades wind their way by train through Denver. (Department of Energy photo by Dennis Schroeder / NREL)

Increasing competition and key players’ strategic moves

The offshore wind landscape is becoming more crowded with several new entrants along the value chain. While traditional players are pursuing aggressive growth to stay ahead of the game, solid new entrants are reshaping the offshore wind landscape.10 The net-zero boom hit the oil and gas majors in 2020, with Equinor followed shortly by most peers. To support their net-zero targets, oil and gas operators are walking the talk with several offshore wind initiatives launched over the past year (see figure 3).

On the project development side, traditional oilfield services and engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) players are capitalizing on their offshore capabilities and diversifying into offshore wind (see figure 4). Traditionally, oil and gas EPC had been marginally involved in offshore wind projects as subcontractors for specific activities with limited scope, such as installing foundations for pilots or small wind farms. Now, they are repositioning in the value chain to deliver larger, more complex project scope—from subcontracting for large wind farms to taking on engineering, procurement, construction, and installation (EPCI) roles for a defined project scope. In the future, the role of EPC players may evolve to deliver turnkey projects for a full wind farm, with examples so far only seen in Asia.

Potential supply chain bottlenecks

Delivering the potential will most likely stretch the value chain, with bottlenecks for turbine production and logistics. The first question will be about whether original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) have the capacity to expand production to meet demand. Over the past several years, OEMs delivered an annual installed capacity of about 7 MW, but demand will grow to about 20 to 30 MW per year until 2030 (see figure 5). This gap could be even wider depending on OEMs’ financial situation. In parallel, high demand in marine logistics (offshore vessels) could create scarcity and tension on prices.

How to win the new gold rush

As discussed, offshore wind energy is a strong candidate for massive growth in some regions. However, an array of market dynamics are creating tensions that are impacting the value chain and creating potential bottlenecks that could impact the overall outcome of projects. Winning the new gold rush will require taking a systematic and collaborative approach.

Choose your battles

The first priority is to identify the sites that have the highest strategic value for your objectives, including growth targets, the portfolio, and the footprint. It will also have implications for local factors, such as grid connection technologies, bidding processes and contracts, merit order, support mechanism, and time to operations, as well as for regulations, such as the Urban Planning Code authorisation for building turbines of more than 12 MW.

Bidders will need to master the contracting process across countries and regions, including understating the prerequisites and differentiating elements to win the bid. The competition is getting tougher. For example, in the Dunkirk wind-farm award, the top five bidders all scored very closely in the tender criteria, with a slightly bigger difference in the bid price: €44 per MWh for the winning and between €47.5 and €51 per MWh for the others.11

Streamline the wind-farm delivery model

Delivering much larger and more complex wind farms requires moving away from the traditional master–servants project development approach with its many siloed interfaces. Collaborative design optimisation could significantly reduce costs and fast-track the time to market. Offshore could unlock significant value by taking advantage of lessons learned from other industries, such as automotive, aerospace and defense, and electronics. While the oil and gas industry has traditionally struggled to do so, offshore wind has the features needed to be successful, with strong standardisation potential and flexibility for lean design (lacking heavy legacy specifications).

A new delivery approach also requires new business models and new ways of working. Strategic alliances are a win–win for operators, OEMs, and EPC to tackle the following elements:

  • Improve the project economics by working together to address large cost areas, taking on the full envelope of costs and seeking to bring it down as opposed to traditional sourcing requests for proposals (RFPs) that are focused on price and likely to increase with change orders.
  • Reduce cycle time by accelerating execution and avoiding RFP and tender processes.
  • Develop technological synergies with contractors by engaging them in advance to elaborate on designing an optimal solution.

In a capacity-constrained environment, strategic alliances also offer opportunities to secure material and services while giving suppliers certainty about revenues. Oil and gas players (operators and EPC) can also capitalise on their strong offshore experience.

Repurposing assets and reskilling the workforce requires a new cross-business portfolio view and management, such as multipurpose vessels serving oil and gas platforms and wind farms, and talent management, such as sharing resources across oil and gas and wind projects.

Achieve operational excellence

Operators will need to assess and extract the wind farm’s true potential. With more pressure to reduce costs and with subsidy-free bids becoming the new norm, operational excellence is paramount to maximising profitability.

Smart operations are a must to optimise both the top and bottom line by considering a broad set of parameters, such as revenues, cost of spare parts, market dynamics, regulations, turbine downtime, weather forecast, and operations and maintenance costs.

Advanced analytics could allow for precisely predicting the impact on costs and revenues to inform decision-making and optimise profitability.

Predictive maintenance enables striking the right balance between corrective and preventive costs, including the costs of failure, reducing total expenditures, and increasing availability and reliability.

Digital twins can extend the life of assets by combining operational and physical inputs, such as inspection information and mechanical characteristics, with advanced simulation, such as fatigue analysis, inspection plan, and predictive maintenance. In addition, using digital twins in the engineering phase could optimise design and reduce material and installation costs.

Squeeze financial value

Finally, operators will need an integrated approach to optimise their financial value.

Value pools. The boundaries between sourcing, trading, and production are blurring, driven by demand response, batteries, and decentralised generation. New value pools are emerging from all parts of the chain.

Contractual and physical flexibility to match supply and demand and balance the grid, such as capacity contracts, virtual storage, and options and derivatives, drives portfolio optimisation and provides growth opportunities.

The operating model needs to adapt to allow an integrated steering of power assets, such as renewable, storage, and combined cycle gas turbines, and consumption, such as internal and external, by location, minimum and maximum load, and steerable load.

Decision-making. With renewable energy growth, the power market is becoming more weather-driven, and demand for flexibility is moving toward the short term. Consequently, the speed and quality of decisions are paramount to ensure smooth alignment between power assets and consumers, such as scheduling and re-dispatching processes with assets and consumers to avoid imbalance costs and capture market opportunities as well as increased frequency balance to manage renewables generation unpredictability. To support quality and efficient decision-making, information system infrastructure and data management are crucial to achieve the following:

  • Combine massive amounts of data in real-time.
  • Develop robust data analytics for optimization (analytical models with accurate signals, confidence estimation, and visualisation).
  • Define the trade-offs for result accuracy versus computation speed.
  • Ensure seamless interactions between independent information systems and functionalities.
  • Define the trade-offs between multiple performance models versus a full integrated model, such as individual turbines, wind farms, and country-level portfolios.
  • Facilitate internal and external data exchanges.

Get set for the race

Think big and act fast

The economies of scale for large wind farms (more than 1 GW) is the new norm for cost-competitiveness. All players are moving.

To leapfrog the competition and not get left behind, it is imperative to quickly screen and target opportunities. Where to start will depend on players’ maturity. In any case, it is important to accelerate the learning curve. For new entrants, this may mean starting with smaller roles or a smaller scope and quickly transitioning to larger, more complex ones.

Choose your partners, and nurture the collaboration

Winners will play a team game with strategic alliances and collaboration across the value chain. This will ensure delivery capacity, such as turbine production, installation, and footprint as well as best-of-breed skills, such as technology and knowledge while accelerating innovation. A cultural fit and collaboration framework will be essential to success.

1 European Commission Climate Action Tracker

2 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2018 special report, International Energy Agency, International Renewable Energy Agency

3 International Energy Agency World Energy Outlook 2019

4 Aurora Energy Research,, European Commission electricity market reports, Kearney Energy Transition Institute

5 International Energy Agency World Energy Outlook 2019; “Wind energy,” International Renewable Energy Agency

6 International Renewable Energy Agency, Global Wind Energy Council, International Energy Agency

7 “Covid-19 monthly update: 2020’s oil demand recovery slows down, road fuels upgraded for 2021,” Rystad, 12 June 2020; “US offshore wind power spending has oil in its sights,” Financial Times, 7 July 2020

8 International Energy Agency

9 Shell media release, 29 July 2020

10 Company websites, press review

11 Commission de Regulation de l’Energie, Deliberation N. 2019-124

Courtesy of

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Wind energy industry celebrates new bid window for renewable procurement

The South African Wind Energy Association (SAWEA), together with the broader renewable power sector, are celebrating the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy’s (DMRE) announcement to open a new procurement round.

DMRE Minister, Gwede Mantashe, announced the opening of Bid Window 5 of the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producers Procurement Programme (REIPPPP), which will procure a further 2 600MW of renewable energy from Independent Power Producers (IPPs).

“The announcement by the Minister to open Bid Window 5, calling for proposals from IPPs, marks the rebirth of the wind energy industry, as the last bidding round took place almost seven years ago, in 2014.”

Ntombifuthi Ntuli, CEO of SAWEA

The Energy Minister has set a firm closing date for the Bid Submission as August 4, 2021.

Addressing energy stakeholders in Johannesburg earlier this month, Minister Mantashe said the auction, which aims to procure 1.6GW of wind energy, is in line with the gazetted IRP2019. 

The wind energy industry is dependent on policy tones set by government.  The Association has noted and is grateful to the various government departments, for implementing policies over the last two years.  The wind sector sees these changes, which are closing policy gaps, as a clear direction in terms of plans to procure new generation capacity on an ongoing basis, in line with the energy roadmap, which sees 14.4GW of new wind power over the next decade.

This procurement window, will add vitally needed power capacity to the country, which continues to struggle with strangled energy supply, an ongoing crisis that is economically crippling and has seen South Africa buckling under the strain of load shedding for the last few years.

“With supporting policy and smooth procurement rounds, expected to include the announcement of Bid Window 6 during the course of 2021 as reiterated by the Minister today, the renewable power sector certainly has a key role to play in re-building the country as a significant catalyst of economic growth, and investors have a big role to play in making that a reality,” adds Ntuli.

Minister Mantashe simultaneously announced the preferred bidders for the procurement of the 2000 MW Risk Mitigation Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (RMIPPPP), which SAWEA recognises as a significant move, as wind and solar will now be able to play a role in dispatchable power.

Two of the eight preferred bidders in RMIPPPP include wind power IPP’s in the form of hybrid projects.  These projects incorporate wind, solar and storage technology on a utility scale, which is a first for South Africa.

SAWEA has noted that this is a massive advantage for the country, as hybrid projects enhance the reliability and stabilisation of the power generation system. Plus, they do not always require grid expansion, as hybrid grids produce power at different intervals and during complementary seasons.

The advantage of hybrid systems, when incorporated with storage, is that the power is ‘dispatchable’.  So, when the wind or solar systems are not generating power, hybrid systems provide power through batteries. Whilst the battery capacity needs to be large enough to supply electricity during non-charging hours, when they run low, the generating plant can provide power to recharge the batteries.

“An advantage of renewable energy hybrid systems lies in their ability to combine two of the fastest growing renewable energy technologies. Hybrid systems can also take advantage of the complementary nature of solar PV, which produces power during the day, and wind, which produces most of its power at night,” concluded Ntuli.

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100MW Kipeto wind power project joins national grid

25 January 2021 – Kipeto Energy Plc (“KEP”) has announced it has connected Kipeto wind farm to the national grid and will start generating power in the next week.

KEP has connected a 17km (220KV) high voltage transmission line, linking the facility to the national grid at the Isinya Substation, and signaling the start of the go-live process. The project’s 60 GE 1.7-103 wind turbines, each capable of producing 1.7MW, will be switched on in stages as part of a gradual ramp-up process, with all commercial tests due to be concluded within the next few months.

Located in Kajiado county, Kipeto is Kenya’s second-largest wind power project. It has a 20-year Power Purchase Agreement with KPLC, and once it is at full capacity, Kipeto will generate 100MW of clean wind energy for the Kenyan people, providing power to the equivalent of approximately 250 000 households. This will be a significant contribution to Kenya’s Vision 2030 and Big Four Agenda.

Dr. Kenneth Namunje, Chairman and Director of Kipeto Energy Plc and Director of Craftskills Ltd commented: “First and foremost I would like to thank the local community for their ongoing support of this project, which has been paramount from day one. Now, with the assistance of KPLC and Ketraco, we’re delighted that this final connection and energization sees the transmission line and associated equipment being handed over this week to KPLC for future care and operation.”

Robert Skjodt, CEO of BioTherm Energy commented: “We are proud to have completed the construction of the Kipeto wind project to the highest standards with strong support from our engineering and construction partners from Worley, China Machinery and Engineering Company, and GE, as well as the local community, to maintain strict safety protocols throughout construction. We are excited to be contributing to Kenya’s Vision 2030 goals and Big Four Agenda and demonstrating that solar and wind are cheaper sources of electricity than traditional fossil fuel-based power plants with a significant positive impact in the local communities.”

The Kipeto project reached financial close in December of 2018, marking the beginning of its two-year construction phase. The project is funded by equity from Actis-backed BioTherm Energy (88%) and Kenyan company Craftskills Ltd (12%) alongside senior debt from the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (“DFC”), the US Government’s development finance institution.

KEP leased and secured more than 60 plots within the project area for the wind turbine footprint and the transmission line through voluntary participation of landowners, and has undertaken a number of local initiatives, including constructing new housing for local families outside the project’s 500m buffer zone, supporting schools with PPE and sanitization equipment as protection against the pandemic, drilling community water borings, and establishing a youth vocational skills training programme to increase employment from within the local community. More than 800 jobs were created during the construction phase of the project and an additional 60 permanent jobs are anticipated during the operational phase.

Around 200 families are expected to benefit directly from the turbine revenue located on their land, with the company establishing a Community Trust to oversee further distribution of profits to the wider local area.

To ensure international environmental standards were followed, KEP worked with specialist consultants during both the planning and development stages of the project to undertake a series of environmental assessments and impact studies. With support from USAID Power Africa, Kipeto developed and initiated a Biodiversity Action Plan, which is designed around the international best practice outlined in the IFC Environmental and Social Performance standards.

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Excelsior Wind Farm heads towards commercial operations

BioTherm Energy has announced that its 33MW Excelsior Wind Energy Facility, in the Western Cape, is now connected to the country’s national power grid, having successfully completed the commissioning of its thirteen wind turbine generators.

This is the first wind farm in the Western Cape, part of the Government’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REI4P), Bid Window 4, to reach this key milestone.

This Independent Power Producer (IPP), which commenced construction almost two years ago, is expected to achieve its Commercial Operations Date next month, when it will begin generating over 132GWh of renewable power each year.

The wind farm is connected to the grid through an on-site substation and a dedicated 132 kV power line connecting to the Vryheid substation, located close to the plant in Swellendam.

“We are pleased to mark this pivotal point in the construction of Excelsior Wind, with all thirteen wind turbines commissioned and connected to the power grid and are confident that we’ll be able to announce the commercial operations next month.”

Robert Skjodt, CEO of BioTherm Energy.

The portfolio of South African IPPs, developed by BioTherm Energy, also includes Aggeneys Solar, Konkoonsies II Solar and Golden Valley Wind. Additionally, the company’s portfolio reaches over the South African borders, to include the 100MW Kipeto Wind, in Kenya.

The REI4P represents the governments’ most comprehensive and successful strategy to achieving a transition to a green economy, with IPPs located across the country, in alignment with the prevalence of renewable energy resources.  Wind projects are predominantly located along the coastal regions, including nine procured in the Western Cape.  The Province has three wind farms presently under construction, which form part of the 27 Bid Window 4 IPPs that will collectively add 2300MW to the country’s struggling national power grid, once they are all on line.

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Green light at the end of the renewable tunnel

While the country continues to struggle with the crippling effects of prolonged load shedding, recent indicators point to a light at the end of the tunnel that is lit by renewable energy. 

Within a short week, the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA) opened the way to procure new renewable power; Eskom launched a daily power generation data platform that clearly demonstrates transparency; and Eskom’s CEO has been reported to say that new energy generation sources will need to be clean and green.

“We are hopeful that together these indicators mean that policy and procurement can work hand in hand to enable a green power revolution that will support the economic growth that is so desperately needed in South Africa.”

Ntombifuthi Ntuli, CEO of the South African Wind Energy Association (SAWEA)

Mineral Resources and Energy Minister, Gwede Mantashe, reported last week that NERSA has provided its concurrence to a Section 34 Ministerial Determination, issued earlier this year, which opened the way for the procurement of 6 800MW of wind and solar PV power.

SAWEA portends that the country’s continued power crisis is a problem that will keep recurring unless the country executes decisive policy initiatives and implements the 2019 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), this development is the next step to making this happen.

“It is clear from the 2019 IRP that the new generation capacity should come from low-cost and reliable renewable energy sources, such as wind and other clean power technologies, especially as renewables can be rolled out within a period of 18 to 24 months, so it is the most feasible option to close the short term capacity gap and give the country a chance to catch its breath,” explained Ntuli.

It seems that Eskom’s CEO, Andre De Ruyter, agrees with this sentiment.  He is reported, in a number of media, acknowledging the global shift to renewable energy and that renewable power is cost competitive power, whilst delivering on reduced emissions and jobs.  To this end, the utility has established a Just Energy Transition office, to engage workers and communities, the article stated.

He is also quoted acknowledging the environmental benefits of clean power and that the national utility cannot continue to violate regulations. 

“Climate change and the decreasing cost of renewable energy have proven the case for the shift to renewable energy.”

Eskom’s CEO, Andre De Ruyter

Another win for the renewable sector is the recent issuing of draft regulations by the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy, which paves the way for municipalities to be able to procure their own power from Independent Power Producers. Once that regulation is approved it will open a new market segment for renewable energy procurement.

“We have also seen an increased interest from the private sector, particularly the members of the energy-intensive users group, to procure power directly from Independent Power Producers,” confirmed Ntuli, who says that the industry is ready and eager to help close the energy supply gaps created by Eskom’s reduced Energy Availability Factor and the decommissioning plan tabled in the 2019 IRP.


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VIDEO | Advantages of concrete wind power towers

Concrete as an alternative solution to conventional steel in the construction of wind towers: Gouda Wind Farm

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DEFF Minister make a decision on West Coast Wind Farm

The Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF) minister, Ms Barbara Creecy has 20 days to decide on whether to uphold appeals against a massive wind farm project proposed for the West Coast Peninsula. However, Covid-19 lockdown and other complications may cause further delays. 

The project includes the proposed 140-megawatt Boulders Wind Energy Facility, consisting of 45 turbines standing 165m high. A German-owned developer Aurora Wind Power plans to build on farmland near Paternoster, Britannia Bay, St Helena Bay and Vredenburg.

Opposition from existing wind farms

There has been opposition from the Vredenburg Wind Farm that has operated the 47-turbine, 94MW West Coast One wind energy facility since June 2015. Their wind farm is located on property that borders the Boulders proposed site. 

They have issued a second appeal against the DEFF’s environmental approval for a transmission line and substation linking the wind farm to the national grid.

The DEFF issued two separate environmental authorisations for Boulders, despite it constituting a single project. The first authorisation took place in January and this is the appeal that is before Creecy. The second authorisation was only set in June for an associated 132-kilovolt substation and transmission line.

“Wake effect”

The Vredenburg Wind Farm argued in their first appeal that the large turbines from the Boulders project’s would upwind their own smaller turbines. As a result, the “wake effect” would reduce their access to wind resources. They further claimed that this would further result in estimated millions in revenue losses. 

In their second appeal, the Vredenburg Wind Farm added that it’s West Coast One facility directly connects to Eskom’s Fransvlei substation. However, the portion of the proposed Boulders overhead powerline will run from the on-site substation to a “loop in Loop out” connection onto Eskom’s existing Aurora – Fransvlei 132-kilovolt sub-transmission line. 

The proposed project could potentially negatively impact the West Coast One’s operations. The separate assessment of the Boulders facility and its grid connection impacts resulted in a “defective” assessment process.

Impacts on the local community

The Vredenburg Wind Farm claims that the proposed Boulders project could, directly and indirectly, impact the local community. The impacts on the West Coast One wind farm and associated with its grid connection could result in reducing the income for the local community.

The West Coast One has spent a portion of its revenue on the socio-development projects on the community.

“These values, and the attendant loss of socio-economic benefits, are significant, and potentially impact on the viability and sustainability of West Coast One … Nowhere has the socio-economic impact of the grid connection on West Coast One been investigated, evaluated or assessed,” the appeal stated.

Electromagnetic impact

In their second appeal, the Vredenburg Wind Farm claimed that the electromagnetic impact of the Boulders transmission line had not been properly investigated, evaluated or assessed. They further added that the new line might cause a loss of energy. There may also be a potential dust problem that could cause flashovers that could result in short circuits. 

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Japan finds ‘promising areas’ for offshore wind power

Recently, the Japanese Industry Ministry said it had found ten areas that could be possibly suitable for developing offshore wind farms. Four of them have been considered “promising areas” for the start of a second round of the process to select operators. 

The offshore wind power market in Japan is expected to grow after the government recently enforced laws to intensify developing wind farms. These promising areas included two in the Sea of Japan off Aomori, the third one off Akita, both in the north of Japan. The fourth promising area was off Nagasaki in the South. 

In these areas, the preparation process will include wind and geological surveys as well as forming councils to consult with communities. 

In the previous year, the ministry selected these four areas from 11 other areas. From these areas, the 21 megawatts (MW) Goto project in Nagasaki has led the way when the ministry launched a bidding process in June to select an operator. It was the first auction under the new law.

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Experts discuss how to make wind power more mainstream

Experts across the globe have come together to address facing the wind power industry. The Internation Energy Agency Wind Technology Collaboration Programme (IEA Wind) brought together a team of experts that was led by researchers from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

The team has been studying how wind energy can benefit energy systems under the IEA Wind Task 41, “Enabling Wind to Contribute to a Distributed Energy Future.” The NREL Deployment Manager and technical director and co-lead of the IEA Wind project, Ian Baring-Gould, explained that roof-mounted solar panels have become more common in the United States and have hopes that wind power systems will reach the same level of affordability.

“Our hope is this IEA Wind research will lead to a similar level of affordability and flexibility for smaller-scale, localized wind installations. We want to increase the reach of this clean energy technology,”

Baring-Gould said.

New Models for Wind Installations

New innovations have led to a drastic decrease in installation and operating costs for utility-scale wind power plants. However, there has not been a similar decrease in the costs of smaller-scale distributed wind systems. This limits wind power’s role in the distributing energy market. Also at the same time communities and nations have looked at the distributed energy generation as a way to meet the energy needs of future generations. 

The experts have been examining a variety of solutions that have involved wind turbines in distributed applications in behind-the-meter, in-front-of-the-meter, microgrid, and off-grid applications, and in combination with other distributed energy and energy storage technologies. The sizes of the turbines that have been considered range from small wind turbines to multi-megawatt, large-scale turbines that can be deployed in small numbers. 

The NREL has conducted work on the forthcoming balance-of-station for distributed wind applications. Baring-Gould explained that this model has allowed for a structured comparison of the cost of the energy impact of different foundation and installation strategies and solutions. 

He added that while the efforts have focused on megawatt-scale distributed applications, future efforts will include distributed applications as small as 20 kilowatts.

“We’re already gaining a better understanding of the technical requirements and marketplace realities. We’re optimistic that this will lead not just to cost savings opportunities, but also to an entirely new model for wind installations,”

Baring-Gould said.

An International Effort

This four-year effort has brought together research organisations from 11 countries to broaden the distributed generation possibilities for global wind power. Along with the United States, the IEA Wind Project has included representatives from Austria, Belgium, Canada, China, Denmark, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Korea and Spain. 

In the future, a detailed international research plan will be developed to create a research case to update international standards. A catalogue will also be developed in order to make information concerning distributed wind operational data easily available for future international efforts. 

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