With 1 850 MW of wind energy capacity expected to be installed in South Africa by 2015, there is going to be severe strain on transport infrastructure, Sisa James of The GreenCape Initiative warned on Tuesday.
About 925 wind turbines would be installed and if each turbine was transported as seven components (or eight for larger turbines), there would be at least 6 475 abnormal loads moving between the ports and wind farm sites.
Over a two-year build period, this translated to 13 loads a day, assuming it would be possible to spread the loads equally. James noted that this was, however, unlikely, as turbines would not start arriving on the day that these projects get under way.
“These kinds of loads and the volumes that we expect will cause severe strain on our roads, and the infrastructure is also not there,” James said at the South African Wind Energy Association conference in Cape Town.
At this stage, all the loads were expected to be transported by road, he said, adding GreenCape has been engaging with Transnet. “[Transnet] still don’t have a real picture of the opportunities . . . It will be the cheapest mode of transport but they don’t have the equipment or infrastructure.”
In terms of the abnormal loads there would be problems with the length, height, weight and width of the turbine components, which would require route clearance.
Modifications would most likely be required along some routes, including signs and fences at intersections being moved to allow for the turning of overlong trailers. About 112 dedicated traffic escorts would be required during transportation, with routes needing to be advertised before the transfers take place.
James also said that there could be a shortage of trucks to transport the turbines, as a project of this scale had not been undertaken in South Africa before. He noted that there would probably also be a crane shortage for offloading the turbines at the ports and for erection at the build sites.
With most of the Western Cape and Northern Cape turbines expected to move through Saldanha Bay, GreenCape has offered to lease a staging area at the port specifically for the turbine offload, which would be sublet to the developers. “Essentially what you’re getting is a chicken and egg situation in which we know how much staging area we’re going to need, but no one’s going to lease it until they get a contract . . . the process to make the land available could take a lot of time and it needs people to act sooner rather than later which is why we have offered to do that,” said James.
The GreenCape Initiative is a vehicle that has been established by the Western Cape provincial government and the City of Cape Town to try and unlock manufacturing and employment potential in the ‘green economy’ in the Western Cape. The initiative has initially chosen to focus on the renewable energy sector and so has become involved in the transportation and logistics around the installation of wind turbines in the province.