Belgians begin work on SA wind farm

18 May 2010

Belgian renewable energy company Electrawinds has begun the construction of its first wind turbine at the Coega Industrial Development Zone outside Port Elizabeth, marking the start of a commercial wind farm that will eventually comprise 25 wind turbines.

The turbine has a 95-metre tower and a 90-metre rotor diameter, and a capacity of 1.8 megawatt – equalling the annual electricity consumption for 1 700 families, based on an average annual consumption of 3 500 kilowatt/hours.

‘Green electricity’ for World Cup

The first of the turbines will be completed ahead of the 2010 Fifa World Cup, and the electricity produced during the tournament will be donated by Electrawinds through a special agreement with the Nelson Mandela Stadium – which is hooked up to the same electricity network as the wind turbine.

The stadium is hosting the quarterfinals, as well as the play-offs for third and fourth place.

“In Belgium, Electrawinds is one of the pioneers of renewable energy and has, in the meantime, built up great know-how,” said Electrawinds MD Luc Desender in a statement last week. “It is now our ambition to fulfil that pioneering role in South Africa as well.

“There is great support there for renewable energy and this offers good prospects. Furthermore, it is my personal dream to reserve the first green electricity of Electrawinds in South Africa for the 2010 football world championship.”

The R1.2-billion wind farm will have a total power capacity of 57.5-megawatts, which is about 10% of the Nelson Mandela Bay electricity consumption, and can power approximately 80 000 homes with green energy. For Electrawinds, this will be the first operational project outside Europe.

Training, skills development

According to Coega Development Corporation (CDC) manager Khwezi Tiya, Electrawinds and the CDC were not only taking the lead in creating sustainable and environmentally friendly energy, but would also invest in the future development of the Eastern Cape through a training programme.

Electrawinds will be managing the educational programme and has cooperated with CDC for the selection of the first three candidates, who have started an engineering programme in January 2010 at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University. For further specialisation, there is a postgraduate programme offered in Europe.

“We want to invest not only in turbines but also in people,” said Electrawinds business development director Jan Dewulf. “Electrawinds is committed to establishing an education fund for students interested in renewable energy.”

Electrawinds’ local representative, Emil Unger, said that South Africa did not have enough qualified staff in the sector of renewable energy at present, and that the scholarships being provided by Electrawinds would make an immense difference to the recipients.

“I am particularly proud that after almost four years of extensive work on this project we are finally seeing it come to life,” Unger said. “Electrawinds also wants to give something back to the South African community.”

SAinfo reporter

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