J-Bay wind farm ready for lift-off

WITH increasing pressure of load shedding this winter, one of the biggest wind farms in South Africa has started operating commercially and will be officially inaugurated in July.

The Jeffreys Bay Wind Farm achieved its commercial operations date on schedule and on budget to supply 460000 megawatt (MWh) of green electricity a year to the Eskom grid.

This is enough energy to power more than 100000 homes. All 60 turbines at the wind farm were commissioned and connected to the Eskom grid last month, and last week the energy provider gave the operators the go-ahead after fulfilling all the requirements to provide electricity to the grid.

Stretching over 3700 hectares, the Jeffreys Bay farm was one of the first wind farms to supply the Eskom grid with power in the Eastern Cape.

"It is astounding to think this project was constructed in just 18 months. It is testament to how swiftly renewable energy can be deployed to help meet the energy needs of South Africa," project manager Leo Quinn said.

During the commissioning phase earlier this year, the wind farm had already started supplying electricity to the grid from some of the commissioned turbines, as they became operational.

The wind farm is one of four constructed in the Eastern Cape, which form part of the first round of the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REIPPPP).

The nine-turbine MetroWind Van Stadens Wind Farm was the first wind project to start providing electricity to the grid late last year.

The Van Stadens wind farm officially started operating commercially in February.

Jeffreys Bay Wind Farm general manager Mark Pickering said he was thrilled to have reached the milestone on target and to have met all Eskom's requirements, including its grid code compliance.

"Our project has received resounding support from the Kouga Municipality and the surrounding communities who supported us throughout the construction phase. For this, we are most grateful and look forward to a long and mutually beneficially relationship," Pickering said.

Kouga mayor Booi Koerat said the renewable energy industry was set to benefit the region as a whole.

"Wind energy projects are breathing new life into the Eastern Cape economy. In Kouga they have given hope to the unemployed and have inspired our young people to pursue careers in energy-related fields. It is an exciting time for the Eastern Cape to be at the forefront of developments that will generate the energy required for our country to prosper as a whole," Koerat said.

A total of 6% of the Jeffreys Bay Wind Farm is owned by the Amandla Omoya Trust and from becoming operational this month, the communities within a 50km radius of the project will benefit from various socio-economic and enterprise development programmes.

The government's minimum threshold for REIPPP first-round projects is 2.5% local ownership. - Cindy Preller