Firm set to make windy history

Cindy Preller

IN LESS than a week history will be made when production starts on the first wind towers to be manufactured in the Eastern Cape. DCD Wind Towers is due to start production on Monday at its newly built R300-million wind tower manufacturing facility in the Coega Industrial Development Zone.

DCD marketing manager for energy Henk Schoeman said the last few days before production started at the facility in Port Elizabeth would be focused on installing equipment which needed to be calibrated and tested.

"DCD will go through a ramp-up phase for the factory to streamline the production line and processes. After this phase, DCD will be manufacturing 12 towers per month. There are a number of processes to be completed to have the final product."

The wind towers to be manufactured at Coega will be 80m to 100m in height, consisting of three to four sections of 25m to 35m. Once completed, the turbine will have an electricity generating capacity of between 1.5MW and 3.0MW depending on the additional equipment fitted.

"We estimate that the first tower will take roughly eight weeks to complete. This is due to filling the 'pipeline' and the learning curve on the first section. Production will then increase from one tower per week to about three per week," Schoeman said. DCD already has fixed orders for two wind energy companies that form part of the second round of the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producers Procurement Programme (REIPPPP).

Orders for clients taking part in the third round of the REIPPPP will only be committed after entry into the programme closes in July.

Thus far, the Eastern Cape wind farms have had to make use of imported towers in the first round of the green energy programme.

In buying a manufactured tower from DCD Wind Towers, the independent power producers will adhere to strict localisation requirements of the REIPPPP.

"DCD Wind Towers manufactures the towers competitively against the imported towers," Schoeman said.

DCD Wind Towers will only manufacture, assemble and paint the tower while the blades, nacelle and hub to make up a complete turbine will still be imported.

Construction on the 23000m² manufacturing facility in Coega started in March last year, which created more than 600 construction jobs. The factory will have 150 to 200 employees when it is fully operational.

Schoeman said while the first phase of DCD Wind Towers was to manufacture for the local REIPPPP, the next step would be to supply into Africa.

DCD signed an agreement with Coega in 2011 to establish the wind tower manufacturing plant in Zone 3 of the IDZ.