|Nkosi MJN Mantazima signing the Memorandum of Understanding|
Franco-South African wind-energy operator InnoWind has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Eastern Cape House of Traditional Leaders (ECHTL) to pursue the development of a number of wind farms, with capacities of between 10 MW and 50 MW, in rural regions of the Eastern Cape.
InnoWind said in a statement that this region of South Africa has significant potential for wind generation and was also a region earmarked by State-owned utility Eskom for infrastructure and new substation deployment.
“Having signed the MoU, both InnoWind and ECHTL are looking towards government to provide clarity on inclusion of smaller-scale renewable energy initiatives into the South African grid. We now await clear direction from government on how contracts will be put in place to ensure these sorts of wind farm projects can move forward too,” said InnoWind MD Martin Webb.
InnoWind was developing similar projects elsewhere in the Eastern Cape, and has established partnerships with Rhodes University and the Makana municipality to develop a 20-MW to 30-MW wind farm in Grahamstown.
“Unlike highly centralised utility-scale coal fired power projects, the small and distributed nature of wind powered electricity generation is ideally suited to socialising the ownership and benefits of electricity,” Webb argued.
The MoU provided that the ECHTL and InnoWind would create individual community broad-based black economic-empowerment trusts for each successful project, which would hold significant minority equity participations in the wind farming facilities themselves.
These trusts would use profits from the wind farming activity to start and administer social development and empowerment projects throughout the former Transkei over the lifetime of the farms, which could be in excess of 30 years.
“I am excited by the prospect of ECHTL and InnoWind working together to create community-based empowerment projects based on renewable energy. This collaboration is an important step in ensuring long term environmentally sustainable growth and social upliftment,” said ECHTL chairperson Chief Nkosi MJN Mantazima.
Eastern Cape South African Local Government Association (SALGA) chairperson and OR Tambo district municipality executive mayor Zoleka Capa was also said to have praised the initiative.
“With ongoing support from institutions such as the Eastern Cape Development Corporation, the ECHTL-InnoWind initiative hopes to develop wind farms that would contribute much needed employment and economic development to a region that has been historically disadvantaged, while simultaneously delivering much needed emissions-free electricity to the national power grid,” said the company.
While South Africa’s national energy regulator has published renewable energy feed-in-tariffs of R1,15/kWh for wind power, independent power producers were still awaiting clarity on a number of issues before they could start generating renewable energy.
The power purchase agreement was still outstanding, and clarity was sought over whether or not power would be sold to a buyers office housed within Eskom, or whether an Independent Systems and Market Operator would purchase the power.
Connection of wind power to the national grid was also raised as an issue, as was the amount of renewable energy that would be required, should the government revise its renewable energy targets.