wind power renewable energy eastern cape
Image: Wind Atlas for South Africa (WASA)
  • The Eastern Cape has the biggest number of wind projects in the country with a value of almost R20 billion.
  • It is expected to produce approximately 58% of its own electrical power from renewable energy sources by 2030.
  • The province is well suited for wind generation, thanks to strong coastal winds and a steady wind current inland.
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The Eastern Cape is poised to emerge as a major source of electricity in South Africa, with the biggest number of the country's wind projects situated in the province.

Geographically, it is fantastically suited for wind generation. This is thanks to mighty wind flows along its long coasts - but also because there's a strong and steady wind current between Cookhouse and the western border of Lesotho. On top of that, the windy areas are close to grid connections, making it easy to feed the power into South Africa's electricity supply. 

Attracting 43% of the total wind capacity procured within South Africa’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REIPPPP), the Eastern Cape is expected to generate 1,440MW at full operational capacity.

Already, with the recent completion of Nxuba wind farm that added a further 148MW to South Africa’s grid, the province is contributing almost 1,000MW.

Approximately 58% of the Eastern Cape's electrical needs can be met by the province's projected IPP output, although, in practice, power generated will be fed into the national grid.

As part of South Africa’s Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), which seeks to cut reliance on coal and increase focus on renewables, wind power plays a prominent role in the country’s energy mix. Additional capacity afforded to wind within the 2030 IRP has been revised to 14,400MW, far outweighing allocations for hydropower and solar power.

With the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) expected to open a fifth bidding window to Independent Power Producers (IPP) in December 2020, the Eastern Cape stands ready to build on strong gains made during previous procurement periods.

During the first four bid windows, the Eastern Cape procured 16 wind projects – double the number in the Western Cape – accounting for 17.3% of all IPP investments. By June 2020, the value of these projects – identified as progress against committed investment – totalled R19.8 billion.

wind farms eastern cape
Location of wind power facilities in the Eastern Cape, Including Bid Window 4 (Image: South African Wind Energy Association, SAWEA)

These wind projects are focused on two regions in the Eastern Cape.

Capitalising on valuable coastline winds, several facilities are found in the vicinity of St Francis Bay.

The Jeffreys Bay Wind Farm consists of 60 turbines, each weighing 162 tonnes, producing 138MW. The Oyster Bay Wind Farm, still under construction, is expected to produce 147.6MW when complete.

The other area of focus is found inland, in a corridor between Somerset East, Bedford and Middleton. In addition to the recently completed Nxuba facility, Cookhouse Wind Farm stands as a prime example of the province’s renewable opportunities.

Located 7km east of the town of Cookhouse, the facility has been fully operational since November 2014 and was the first wind farm in South Africa to successfully connect to Eskom’s transmission network. Featuring 66 Suzlon S88 Turbines, each standing 80m tall, Cookhouse Wind Farm consistently produces 135.80MW of renewable energy.

According to the South African Wind Energy Association (SAWEA), based off energy produced since 2014, this is enough to provide power to 574,590 households.

wind map south africa
South African Wind Atlas: Mean wind speed ms/1 @ 100m AGL (Image: Wind Atlas for South Africa, WASA)

wind atlas south africa
(Image: Wind Atlas for South Africa, WASA)

SAWEA has offered insight into the Eastern Cape’s success as South Africa’s ‘wind energy capital’. “Wind IPPs are largely located along the coastal regions of the Eastern Cape and Western Cape provinces, based on the strong wind flows along these shores,” says SAWEA. “Wind farms are constructed according to the quality of the wind resource and ease of connection to the national grid.”

The South African Wind Atlas, which maps wind speed throughout the country as an indication of potential energy yields, shows a strong inland current stretching from Cookhouse to the western border of Lesotho. Measured at 100m above ground level, average wind speeds range between 7 and 10m/s.

Wind turbines begin to produce power at wind speeds of 3m/s.

Additionally, the Eastern Cape’s inland wind channel coincides with a vital transmission corridor, with Cookhouse and Stormberg listed as Energy Development Zones. This allows wind farms to feed power directly into the national grid.

SA transmission corridor map
SA transmission corridors (Image: Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, CSIR)

These factors, including proximity to national supply routes to transport building materials, is advantageous to the country’s renewable energy scheme but extends further into the province’s socioeconomic prospects.

“Clean energy production supported by the procurement strategy of the REIPPPP is contributing directly to the Eastern Cape’s provincial objective of building sustainable energy, stimulating a ‘green’ economy and achieving sustainable economic growth and development,” explains SAWEA.

IPPs in the Eastern Cape have committed R4.6 billion to communities in the vicinity of wind farms, with 42% of these funds being funnelled into education and skills development. This is especially vital for the Eastern Cape, which holds one of the highest unemployment rates in the country at 45.8%.

SAWEA estimates that wind projects in the province will create 18,139 job years, defined as a full-time employment opportunity for one person for one year. To date, 42% of construction-related jobs have been retained within local communities.

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