Wind energy localisation targets achievable, says senior IDC manager

October 24, 2012 by  
Filed under Green Energy News

The localisation targets for wind energy, which starts at 25% in round one of the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Programme (REIPPP), increasing to 40% by round three, were certainly achievable, Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) senior account manager Piet Badenhorst said on Tuesday.

“If you look at the typical turbine it consists of 60% of the total project cost, so on the balance of plant you can already get close to the 40%,” he said at the 2012 Windaba in Cape Town.

However, if the towers and blades of wind turbine projects could also be produced in South Africa, an additional 26% of the engineering, procurement and construction costs could then be considered local content, Badenhorst added.

Also speaking as part of a panel on localisation of wind energy projects, Group Five engineering director Hans Rossocha said the towers were “the low-hanging fruit” for localisation, as the country already had the capacity to produce either concrete or steel towers to meet the requirements for the wind energy projects identified in the first two rounds of the REIPPP.

Group Five had recently completed 120 concrete towers, each 50 m tall, in 15 months using the slip forming technique, a method which could be easily transferred to the production of wind turbine towers with heights more in the region of 80 m to 100 m, and which would still be more cost effective than importation, Rosscha said.

“Generally, people talk about concrete towers only being affordable from 100-m plus, but personally, I disagree with that because of the logistics of bringing things to South Africa. I think that benchmark opinion of 100 m has been established in Europe . . . but in South Africa we have to test the actual ability to transport that into the country,” he said.

Overall, Rossocha emphasised that concrete wind turbine towers could be attractive for purposes of localised procurement as they could be manufactured on site, thus also creating local jobs, and would be fully made from South African products.

Production of local wind turbine blades would, however, pose more of a challenge, said Badenhorst, primarily because each wind turbine model required a different type of blade and thus a different mould would be needed to carry out the production of each blade type.

In the first REIPPP bid round, five manufacturers, Nordex, Siemens, Sinovel, Suzlon and Vestas, would be providing turbines and in the second round three manufacturers, namely Acciona, Suzlon and Vestas.

The two rounds would require the production of approximately 400 turbines to meet the allocated capacity but for a blade manufacturer to “break even” they would need to be making approximately 150 turbine blades of a single model, said Badenhorst.

With the turbines being spread over so many different models, there would be a risk that a blade manufacture would not be viable in South Africa unless they were able to gain firm commitment for future projects. However, Badenhorst suggested that measures such as facilitating the export of wind turbine blades with export credits could be an option to make local manufacture of the blades viable. “At the IDC we support localisation but we should be careful not to oversimplify it,” he warned.

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