The South African Wind Energy Association recently reported that currently wind energy makes up around half of all renewable energy produced in South Africa. As South Africans are getting to grips with crippling power shortages across the country, this news offers a flicker of hope for the future.
Over the past three years, the wind energy industry has made immense achievements in the country. SA has gone from having just eight wind turbines in 2012 to 294 – just three years later. Wind energy guaranteed that 117 hours of load shedding were avoided in 2014.
A new report from the European Commission has concluded that wind power is the renewable energy technology with the largest and most successful deployment over the last 20 years.
Across South Africa, five wind farms are in full production, 15 large-scale wind farms are under construction and another seven are approaching financial close. Once all of them are up and running and their proposed 700 turbines installed, they will generate 1 983 MW of power.
- Wind provides clean energy and does not produce carbon dioxide emissions
- Wind farms are land-friendly and agricultural and industrial activity can continue and co-exist around them.
- Wind energy is much cheaper, only one eighth of the price of the peaking plants that Eskom currently calls upon during times when electricity supply is tight.
- The renewable energy from South Africa's first wind and solar projects last year delivered R800-million more in financial benefits for the country than it cost.
- 8000 jobs have been created because of the REIPPP and a further 18228 people are said to be permanently employed once other projects are underway.
- Wind energy is dependent on the weather, which can be unreliable.
- Environmentalists contend that wind farms kill birds, especially raptors like hawks and eagles.
- Wind turbines generally produce allot less electricity than the average fossil fuelled power station, requiring multiple wind turbines to be built in order to make an impact.
- Logistical issues in transporting wind towers and blades in the construction phase
- Specialised mobile cranes are also required to install wind turbines due to the large masses and heights the turbines will reach. Only a handful of these cranes exist in South Africa but the country will require a fleet to meet the demand of the project wind industry.
- Turbines may cause noise and aesthetic pollution. Although wind power plants have relatively little impact on the environment compared to other conventional power plants, there is some concern over the noise produced by the rotor blades, aesthetic (visual) impacts.
If you speak to any South African sustainable energy expert, it is guaranteed that a vast amount of them will advise that the disadvantages outweigh the advantages when it comes to utilising wind turbines. In a country that is continually struggling to keep the lights on the emergence of this energy resource might just be the answer to some of these problems.
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