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Windaba focuses on wind energy sector impact

An image of SAWEA CEO Niveshen Govender

NIVESHEN GOVENDER Renewable energy must be at a pace that will not risk energy security

29th September 2023

By: Nadine Ramdass

Creamer Media Writer


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The twelfth edition of Windaba, hosted by the South African Wind Energy Association (SAWEA), will focus on the impact of wind energy, its role in the energy mix, and related industry and energy challenges. The event will be held from October 3 to 5 at the Cape Town International Convention Centre.

“We’ve established a track record in South Africa and proven that the technology works. Now we will be focused on impact,” says SAWEA CEO Niveshen Govender, commenting on the theme of this year’s Windaba: Beyond the Turbines.

This year’s event is built on five pillars. The first pillar, Contributing to Combating Loadshedding, will explore wind energy as a contributor to generation capacity and how it can reduce the risk and effects of loadshedding.

The second pillar, Advancing Wind Energy Innovation, will “go beyond technology" and evaluate innovation in funding models and generation facilities. It will also discuss innovation in business models, how resources are assessed and energy planning.

The third pillar, Exploring the Holistic Impact of Wind Energy, will focus on how wind energy projects can benefit surrounding communities, improving gender diversity in projects, and contributing to meaningful social and economic development.

“We're also looking at local supplier development, local manufacturing and most importantly, skills development,” adds Govender.

Building a Resilient Wind Energy Future constitutes the fourth pillar and will evaluate how South Africa can plan for future generations’ needs while prioritising renewable energy.

The fifth pillar, Engaging Communities in Wind Energy, will focus on ensuring stakeholder engagement, including those that are affected by climate change, and that projects continue to contribute to the upliftment of the local communities.

Govender highlights the impact wind farms have had on Northern Cape communities with little or no economic development, adding that the introduction of wind projects positively impacted on these communities and boosted the economy of the province.

Simplified Energy Mix
South Africa’s energy challenges stem from two major factors, says Govender.

The first is the ageing and struggling coal fleet that is managed by State-owned power utility Eskom.

The second is that the country’s increasing demand for electricity is exponentially outstripping its ability to generate power. Renewable energy, particularly wind energy, can address this challenge by generating more electricity.

Wind energy could significantly build new capacity reasonably quickly and cost effectively to bridge the existing energy gap, he notes.

However, Govender emphasises that a diversified energy mix is required to ensure energy security, as well as the eventual transitioning to clean energy.

This entails using a mix of technologies – such as solar power, wind power, gas and battery storage – to create a system that ensures that there is enough energy on a more consistent basis.

Renewable energy is a significant contributor to reducing carbon emissions and combating climate change, but South Africa faces an energy crisis and electricity shortfall, which complicates its transition to clean energy, he explains.

“South Africa has already integrated renewable energy into the energy mix, and wind energy is prominent,” he says. However, he stresses that more renewable-energy projects need to reach implementation quicker to ensure that the impacts of loadshedding are reduced.

He notes that renewable energy is already tried-and-tested, with wind and solar photovoltaic (PV) power being quicker and cheaper technologies to build.

With solar PV, it takes about 12 months to build a 100 MW plant, while with wind energy, it takes about 18 to 24 months to build a 140 MW plant, he explains.

Govender emphasises that South Africa’s demand profile has peaks in the morning and evening and is stable throughout the day as is the case with most countries.

Wind energy is at its peak in the morning and evening; therefore, it can meet the demand needed during peak-energy consumption times. Power can then be stabilised throughout the day by solar PV generation.

Energy security can be further enhanced by thermal generation, gas or battery storage for reserve capacity that can be deployed as needed.

He adds that coal should not be disregarded in South Africa’s energy mix: “We will slowly move away from coal, but it will not happen overnight. We must . . . have energy security in the country because that is important for us as a developing nation.”

Ultimately, the transition to renewable energy must be at a pace that will not risk energy security, Govender concludes.

Edited by Nadine James
Features Deputy Editor




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