With South Africa currently in the grip of debilitating rolling black-outs and load shedding due to the Eskom power grid being stretched to capacity, and exacerbated by a loss of capacity at its Majuba power station in Mpumalanga, it comes as a ray of light that GRI - Renewable Industries officially announced the opening of their new R300m wind turbine tower production facility in Atlantis, Cape Town.
South Africa's steady economic growth and focus on industrialisation, together with its mass electrification program has seen a steep increase in the demand for electricity, to the point where South Africa’s energy demand is expected to double by 2030. Adequate provision for this massive demand has been hampered by various factors, suffice to say that the rapid search for alternative energy sources is a priority. The government is encouraging the search for new sustainable energy practices with various tax incentives, helping businesses and local government to actively seek tangible and immediate solutions to this growing problem. The government is also looking to support sustainable green energy initiatives on a national scale through a diverse range of clean-energy options as envisaged in an Integrated Resource Plan. In terms of this plan, which is a 20-year projection on electricity demand and production, about 42% of electricity generated must come from renewable resources.
The R300m investment from Spanish corporate, GRI Renewable Industries offers South Africa a giant leap forward in the provision of renewable energy alternatives with the facility capable of producing 150 wind towers a year.
Javier Imaz, CEO of GRI, comments, “Our investment in this new state of the art wind turbine tower production facility clearly demonstrates our long-term commitment to South Africa and also positions GRI Wind as open for business and willing to partner local enterprises to develop sustainable wind energy facilities in South Africa.”
The 12,000m² factory, situated in the Green Technology Industrial Park in Atlantis, about 40km from Cape Town, will help propel South Africa into the renewable energy market, with more investment planned for the future. The state of the art facility integrates the use of energy saving technologies designed to maximise the benefits of natural lighting and ventilation. The 350m long factory has custom-designed storage space, allowing each completed tower section to be stored on site. Each section can weigh up to 90 tons, and measure 38m in length, and five metres in diameter. In addition there is permanently installed logistic machinery to move and load the completed sections.
The company hopes to reach full production volume in 18 months, and in the process will develop a highly skilled and motivated workforce, contributing towards sustainable and responsible power generation. Atlantis has always suffered from high unemployment rates, and this project will not only create 200 permanent jobs, but new skills will be taught that currently do not exist in this country. Local and overseas experts will invest in identifying and training the new labour force and up-skilling them to be able to provide the necessary service to perform their jobs to the highest standards, leading to much needed social upliftment within this local community. This is the first investment that the City of Cape Town has attracted through its pilot Investment Incentive Scheme in Atlantis, and is testament to the City’s emphasis on partnerships to make progress possible.
A recently completed wind power project at Noblesfontein located near Victoria West in the Northern Cape has a capacity of approximately 74MW achieved through the installation of 41 turbines. This plant forms part of the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement programme managed by the Department of Energy and has Purchase Power Agreements with Eskom for the next twenty years of operation.
Mr Imaz concludes, “Not only will this investment offer a realistic solution to the current fragile power situation, but we will be deploying and sharing our know-how with the local market and at the same time generating additional job creation opportunities. We see a bright future for South African-developed renewable energy, both locally and also in Africa, not just as users but suppliers as well."
By Jenni McCann