Amid the ongoing energy challenges faced by South Africa, nature has offered a glimmer of hope in the form of high winds. According to South Africa’s electricity utility Eskom, powerful gusts of wind over the past week helped reduce load-shedding, as wind energy power plants at the coast increased their electricity supply to the grid.
Speaking to reporters on Friday in the capital Pretoria, Eric Shunmagum, the generation executive at Eskom said: “There have been great wind-resources generation coming through in the last week. With cold fronts coming through, we see better wind resources.”
Shunmagum also revealed that improved maintenance at power plants, increased diesel supply at the open-cycle gas turbines, and reduced demand as a result of higher tariffs were also contributing factors to the improvement of electricity availability in the country.
Electricity Minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa, in a virtual media briefing last week further confirmed the role wind energy played in improving electricity supply.
“Generation available from wind power has increased due to weather conditions in the coastal regions. Peak demand is averaging less than 29 000MW, compared to 30 000MW projected in the first week of June,” he said.
The timing of this wind boon couldn’t be more heaven-sent for Eskom, with the country grappling with a persistent electricity supply crisis.
Eskom has long-term power purchase contracts with renewable energy independent power producers, who have invested in wind energy generation power plants over the last decade, through the government renewable energy tender, Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REIPPPP). Most wind farms are located in the coastal provinces of Western Cape and Eastern Cape.
Eskom chairman, Mpho Makwana, also disclosed that the Energy Availability Factor (EAF) for Eskom power plants has risen to 60.5%, compared with about 56% a year ago. The increase in the EAF was also key in reducing load shedding.
The improvement of power supply has also resulted in the country’s currency, the Rand gaining 4.3% against the Dollar over the last week. South Africa’s power woes have been negatively impacting the country’s economic prospects, with the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) estimating that load shedding could cost the country close to 2% in economic growth this year alone.