Jeffreys Bay Wind Farm- A REIPPP programme success story

Submitted by: Jean McKenzie, Monday, November 24, 2014

<p>Jeffreys Bay Wind Farm based in the Eastern Cape consists of 60 Siemens 2.3 MW turbines and has been in operation since May 2014 (Image Source: Globeleq South Africa Management Services).</p>

Jeffreys Bay Wind Farm based in the Eastern Cape consists of 60 Siemens 2.3 MW turbines and has been in operation since May 2014 (Image Source: Globeleq South Africa Management Services).

The 138 MW Jeffreys Bay Wind Farm has been a notable success of Round One of the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement (REIPPP) Programme. With construction on the facility beginning in December 2012 the farm, consisting of 60 Siemens 2.3 MW turbines, began commercial operation a mere 18 months later on 15 May 2014. Commercial operation requires not only the construction of the wind farm and connection to the grid, but achieving grid compliance according to Eskom standards which can often cause further delays.

On budget, on time, and no lost time injuries

Reflecting on the successes and challenges of the R2.9-billion project Mark Pickering, Managing Director of Globeleq South Africa Management Services (which is the majority shareholder of Jeffreys Bay Power (RF) (Pty) Ltd which owns the wind farm), proposes that finishing the wind farm on budget and on time was notable but it was completing construction with no lost time injuries that was probably the most significant achievement of the project.  “That is just a fantastic record,” he enthuses. “There were 600 people moving around on site, lots of heavy machinery, lots of earth being shifted. Most of these people were from the local community and hadn’t worked on construction sites before. The chances of an accident are high but we got to the end without a single lost time injury. This was a real tribute to the contractors.”

Job creation and the community’s response

More than 520 unskilled jobs were created during the construction of the Jeffreys Bay Wind Farm for previously unemployed residents of the Kouga Municipality during the project period and overall the response of the community to the wind farm has been positive. “There was initially an apprehension of ‘What is this thing?’, but as people came to understand it better they appreciate the fact that it is modern, clean and green. There are a lot of very positive attributes to wind farms so resistance to this technology shifts quite easily. And of course there is the jobs element and the local investment. So our experience has been that there was a very positive response from the local community,” says Pickering.  With the N2 highway running directly through the wind farm, there has been a high level of interest in the facility and as a result Jeffreys Bay Power (RF) (Pty) Ltd has taken the decision to create a visitors centre at the site to allow the public to better understand the technology. The centre will include a 49.5 m wind turbine blade on the ground which visitors will be able to view in close proximity in order to get a sense of scale. 

Project initiation and development

Development on the Jeffreys Bay Wind Farm began in 2006, well before the announcement of the South African governments REIPPP Programme in 2011. Pickering says that starting the project in 2006 without any policy framework was probably the most challenging aspect of the entire process. “In 2006 when the development started there was only a broad policy statement, but there was no clarity about how renewables would be procured or what the pricing would look like. That only became clear in August 2011 when government published the RFP [Request for Proposals]. . . Once that had been clarified, what the rules of the game were and what the pricing framework would be, then it became a normal project in terms of bidding it, winning the project, financing it, closing it, building it. Those are processes that the power sector knows about and can manage,” explains Pickering.

Electricity generation

The Jeffreys Bay Wind Farm is expected to generate approximately 460 GWh of electricity each year with the turbines designed to operate with little human intervention. When a turbine does trip the operation log is examined and the reason for the trip is determined. A remote reset may be carried out or a technician dispatched to physically assess and repair the turbine. These decisions are taken remotely at a monitoring centre based in Denmark, which is one of three centres that Siemens has developed to monitor wind turbines around the world. This Danish centre monitors approximately 4,500 wind farms. According to Pickering, Globeleq is in the process of building its own local monitoring centre that will take over this function in time for the company’s three local assets, which besides the Jeffreys Bay Wind Farm include two 50 MW solar photovoltaic facilities, namely De Aar Solar Power (in De Aar) and Droogfontein Solar Power (near Kimberley).

Operation levels

While there are definitely periods without wind, the Jeffreys Bay Wind Farm is to date operating at a level which is better than anticipated. As Pickering outlines: “A wind farm will typically be generating electricity for 80% of the time so one in five hours it will be standing still. This is usually expressed as the net capacity factor, which is the ratio of the wind farms actual output to its nameplate output. If the plant operated constantly at its full installed capacity, which is 138 MW in the case of the Jeffrey’s Bay Wind Farm, then it would have a 100% capacity factor. A good capacity factor for a wind farm in Europe is in the mid to upper 20’s, 30% would be excellent. But we are seeing projects here that are well above that. Our Jeffrey’s Bay Wind Farm is just under 40% and the winners in Round Four [of the REIPPP programme] are all expected to be in the mid-40s. So South Africa is turning out to having a fantastic wind resource, all of which contributes to bid prices going down.”

Other wind projects in the REIPPP programme

In the REIPPP programme Rounds One, Two and Three, a total of 22 onshore wind projects were announced as successful bidders making up approximately 1,984 MW. A further 1,336 MW remains to be allocated to wind under the current REIPPP programme, with announcement of successful Round Four projects expected shortly.

To keep updated with sustainability news subscribe to the fortnightly Urban Earth Newsletter.

Jean McKenzie