Deputy Energy Minister Barbara Thompson on Tuesday launched South Africa’s first verified numerical wind atlas for the Northern Cape, Western Cape and Eastern Cape.
Thompson said that the atlas, which is part of the Wind Atlas for South Africa (Wasa) project, would be a useful tool for comparison and identification of potential sites for future wind turbine projects.
The first atlas covered the areas seen as the most promising for harnessing wind energy, but in future it was hoped to extend this to the rest of South Africa and possibly neighbouring countries.
“Some of you may wonder as to what a wind atlas has to offer South Africans when the country is faced with the triple challenges of unemployment, inequality and poverty. Let me respond by stating upfront that we cannot achieve success in responding to this triple challenge unless we diversify our energy sources and incorporate environmentally benign energy resources such as wind,” said Thompson.
The project was a collaboration between the South African National Energy Research Institute, the University of Cape Town Climate System Analysis Group, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), the South African Weather Service and the Technical University of Denmark’s (DTU’s) department of wind energy.
Funding for the project, which had to date cost R22-million, was provided by the Department of Energy, the United Nations Development Programme – Global Environment Facility and the Danish Embassy in South Africa.
Using 30 years of meteorological global reanalysis data, a mesoscale climate model with a 5 km x 5 km resolution had been created in order to generate the wind atlas, explained the DTU’s Jens Hansen.
The model had been verified against the ten actual wind measurement stations, which had been in operation since August 2010, with the stations measuring the wind speeds at a height of 80 m above ground level.
Hansen said the correlation between the atlas and real measurements was pleasing. “This is world class, there is nowhere in the world that has a better wind atlas than this one,” he said.
Hansen said that the data from the Wasa project was freely available on a website, which the CSIR hosts, and interest in the project was high from both local and international users. The website already had 444 registered users from 37 different countries with over 16 000 downloads having taken place.
The atlas should enable prospective wind farm developers of all sizes to obtain free modelled wind measurement data that could be used together with commercial wind resource software. This would allow initial assessment of the viability of developing a wind farm in a chosen area, after which developers could carry out more detailed studies.
Hansen, however, noted that this was not the first wind atlas created for South Africa, with a previous atlas having being created by Dr Kilian Hagemann, who also attended the launch. However, Hansen said the new atlas was the first produced by a verified method created during the 1980s at the DTU.