By Mzukisi Solani
PORT ELIZABETH, SOUTH AFRICA, April 28 — The role of independent power producers (IPPs) in alleviating South Africa’s energy shortages has been re-emphasised with the establishment of another wind farm in Eastern Cape Province.
The community-driven Tsitsikama Wind Farm in the western part of the province is set to add a further 95 megawatts (MW) of electricity to the power grid when the 31-turbines achieve commercial operation by next year.
The government has intensified its plan to bring more power into the national grid through procurement from IPPs, seeing it as the quickest way to increase South Africa’s energy supply, which will continue to be in deficit and unstable for the next five years.
Earlier this year, national power utility Eskom announced a deal with 26 IPPs which aim to produce about one-thousand MW. Now, diversified South Africa-based resources group Exxaro, together with India’s Tata Power, are adding another wind farm through the Cennergi joint venture which is developing the Tsitsikamma Community Wind Farm together with the Tsitsikamma community.
Exxaro’s Chief Executive Officer Sipho Nkosi, says: “If you look at the needs of the country, they are so immense. The coming in of independent power producers, they tend to supplement what Eskom are producing. Therefore, that is very important to ensure that there’s sufficient power into the system and also that is important in terms of further growth of the economy of South Africa.”
The Tsitsikamma-based amaMfengu clan was forcefully removed from their land in the 1970’s. Their crops and homes were either sold or destroyed. With the advent of democracy in 1994, the government bought back the land on their behalf as part of the land restitution programme.
Through their land, the clan will now be a significant player in the renewable energy industry with its 25 per cent partnership with Cennergi. This project will address the challenges of unemployment and poverty in this area, where some people have been unemployed for more than ten years.
Tsitsikamma Development Trust Chairperson Zilindile Blouw says the project will help rebuild the community.
“We hope that this project will help us to rebuild the amaMfengu farms. We had everything here but it was destroyed completely. With this project we foresee it will help us to rebuild the community.”
The farm is one of the 19 bidders approved by the Energy Department under it Renewable Energy IPP Programme. Four of the wind projects are in the Eastern Cape and the other three are in Western Cape Province.
There would be significant boost to the local economy through payments of dividends to the community. The money will be used by the community to improve other sectors that it is involved with, especially agriculture.