Irish firm in SA wind farm venture

19 March 2009

Irish company Mainstream Renewable Power has signed a €850-million (about R11-billion) joint venture deal with South African firm Genesis Eco-Energy to build wind farms to generate “an initial pipeline” of over 500 MW of energy in the Eastern, Northern and Western Cape provinces by 2014.

The joint venture company plans to have two projects – a 30 MW wind farm at Jeffrey’s Bay near Port Elizabeth, and a 40 MW project at Colesberg in the Northern Cape – ready for construction early in 2010.

The two projects “are both at advanced development stages and are expected to be fully operational early in 2011,” Mainstream said in a statement on Thursday.

“Wind energy is very much an untapped resource in South Africa, and this is a huge opportunity for us,” said Mainstream chief executive Eddie O’Connor.

A shortage of power generating capacity is constraining South Africa’s economic growth, and state electricity company Eskom is to spend hundreds of billions of rands over the next five years on increasing this capacity.

At the same time, the government is placing increasing emphasis on reducing South Africa’s dependence on fossil fuels. Speaking at a renewable energy conference in Pretoria on Thursday, Minerals and Energy Minister Buyelwa Sonjica said the government wanted renewable energy to account for between 6% and 9% of electricity generated in the country by 2013, and between 9% and 15% by 2018.

Mainstream’s O’Connor said that while there was currently less than 10 MW of wind energy in operation in South Africa, with the country’s “excellent wind resource there’s the potential for many thousands.

“We are confident that the South African government will shortly implement appropriate policies to kick-start and support the wind energy market,” O’Connor added.

Genesis Eco-Energy’s director of operations, Davin Chown said that Mainstream’s investment was “a vote of confidence in both the Genesis team as well as the emerging renewable energy market in South Africa, which holds significant potential for an investment and development partnership such as ours.”

Besides contributing to South Africa’s climate change mitigation strategy, the new projects will give a major boost to local economic development, energy security and job creation.

Mainstream is also engaged in development projects in the US, UK, Canada, Chile and Germany. Earlier this month, the company signed a CAD$840-million deal to build wind farms in Canada, and in February it won the right to develop a £1.1-billion offshore wind farm off Scotland.

SAinfo reporter

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