The 34,5 MW Wesley-Ciskei wind farm, situated near Hamburg in the Eastern Cape, was recently connected to the grid, reports renewable energy developer and operator, EDF Renewables.
“We now have grid connection, so start hot-commissioning of the turbines and complete the reliability testing. After that we will prove grid code compliance, which will be verified, and thereafter we will start commercial operations,” says the company’s project manager, Carl Wlotzka.
Built through the Covid-19 pandemic, the project lived through the Level 5 lockdown where it ceased all construction activities for eight weeks. “We also had to implement strict Covid-19 health and safety protocols upon re-opening of the site, which concentrated on a range of measures to combat the spread of the pandemic. Fortunately, the project was not significantly delayed,” says Wlotzka.
“Given the Covid challenges, we are extremely happy to have achieved this milestone on the project. We are proud to be playing a key role in contributing to South Africa’s renewable energy goals and to the economic development of the Eastern cape region,” says Tristan De Drouas, the company’s CEO.
Click here for a time-lapse video showing construction of one of the tower bases.
EDF Renewables has contributed significantly to South Africa’s renewable energy goals, having already completed four windfarms for the South African Renewable Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REIPPPP), including the Waainek, Chaba and Grassridge projects, which contribute 107,1 MW to the grid.
Wesley-Ciskei wind farm comprises ten turbines supplying 34,5 MW AC. The technology employed on the wind farm includes some of the largest turbines installed in South Africa, with a hub height of 117 m, and each blade being 63 m long, making each turbine stand 180 m tall.
“It was a big transportation challenge to navigate the South African road network with extremely heavy turbine components, and blades that are up to 63 m in length. These components were delivered to Wesley-Ciskei and installed in two months,” commented Wlotzka.
The project has created numerous jobs and resulted in several key economic development initiatives in the community, including an SMME development and upskilling programme. The objective was to assist approximately 50 SMMEs in the communities surrounding the project site in upskilling in health and safety, communication, financing and tendering. The project appointed SAICA ED to facilitate the programme.
A bursary scheme also assisted two students in the local community to study at an institution of higher learning.
During the pandemic’s hard lockdown, over 400 food parcels were delivered to the community and local businesses manufactured face masks and hand sanitisers for the site.
The project is also the subject of an academic study by the University of the Free State to assess the socio-economic impact that the wind farm project has had on local communities, since it is the first renewable energy project under the REIPPP programme located in this former homeland area in South Africa.
Phase 1 of the study developed a baseline of the area, while Phase 2 will measure the same indicators at the end of the construction phase in order to have a comparative effect.
More photos from the project are available here: https://www.edf-re.co.za/portfolio/wesley-ciskei-wind-farm/