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Tech firms back SA's R3.5-bn wind farm

Tech firms back SA's R3.5-bn wind farm.

The R3.5 billion Loeriesfontein wind farm project in South Africa has completed the lifting of the first of 61 wind turbines. The operation has been described as a pivotal point in the construction of the wind farm which is projected to generate up to 563,500 MWh of clean renewable energy per year - enough power supply for 120 000 South African homes.

Leo Quinn, Project Manager of Loeriesfontein wind farm says lifting one of the turbines which is done by Siemens Wind Power, along with their sub-contractors, Fairwind and BMS is a complicated exercise that can take longer than a full day on occasion.

"The process of constructing the turbines requires two cranes to work simultaneously; the lifting of the massive 108 meter diameter rotor requires great skill and is a really impressive manoeuvre to watch. We are pleased to be working with an experienced crew, who fairly recently managed the lifting for Noupoort wind farm and will later move onto our sister wind farm,"

Wider economic benefit

Sabine Dall'Omo, CEO of Siemens Sub-Saharan and East Africa says wind turbines from Siemens - which plays a key role in the construction of Loeriesfontein wind farm - contribute around 600MW of clean energy to South Africa's National Energy Grid.

"This figure is rising as more and more projects that Siemens is involved in come online. Wind power is coming of age in Africa and is fast becoming directly competitive with traditional energy sources. Now is the time for Africa to utilise these innovations. SA has achieved this with its Renewable Energy Independent Power Producers Procurement Programme (REIPPPP), the world's fastest growing renewables initiative. In just five years, 92 independent power producers have secured contracts in SA with a combined nameplate capacity of 6,327 MW."

Dall'Omo echoes sentiments previously expressed by, among others Econet Group founder and Chairman Strive Masiyiwa who has said that Africa has an opportunity to leapfrog and lead the world in renewable energy as it has done by leapfrogging from fixed-line telephony to mobile communications. She says South Africa's wind story is not just about the government's Renewable Energy Independent Power Producers Procurement Programme which has set the target of generating 3 725 megawatts (MW) from Renewable Energy sources in the country.

"Wind is good for rural development. More than 600 people -nearly half of which were from local communities - were employed at the peak of construction of the Jeffreys Bay Wind Farm which has 60 Siemens wind turbines supplying enough clean energy to 100,000 average South African homes. Wind generation is highly visible, with great revolving blades looming large on the skyline. Communities can see it generating power, which creates an aspiration in local youngsters to join the engineering and energy industries. Developing skills in wind energy, underway at the SA Renewable Energy Technology Centre in Cape Town, will create capacity for South Africa to become a regional hub for Africa's wind development. Government's localisation and beneficiation targets are moving SA's wind investments up the industrial value chain, and developing the capacity of local companies to deliver energy projects. South Africans tend to underplay their triumphs, but wind power is a story worth exporting to the rest of the continent," added Dall'Omo.

The next major construction milestone of the Loeriesfontein wind farm is expected to be the arrival of the main transformer and the energisation of the substation.

Loeriesfontein wind farm is owned by a South African consortium that includes Thebe Investment Corporation, Genesis Eco Energy and the Loeriesfontein 2 Renewable Energy Community Trust.

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