09 Oct 20 News Projects South Africa

Perdekraal East becomes first BW4 wind farm to enter operation

Some of the 48 turbines towers that will add 110 MW of clean energy capacity to South Africa's grid

Perdekraal East has this week entered commercial operation, becoming first ‘Bid Window 4’ wind farm to feed power to South Africa’s national grid.

The milestone brings to a close a construction phase which, even with the disruption of the Covid lockdown earlier this year, took just 27 months to complete.

Developed and built by Mainstream for our Africa joint venture, Lekela Power, the 110 MW project will now be operated by Mainstream Asset Management South Africa for the next 20 years, under the government’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme. 

Most of the construction workforce was local, and skilled roles were often filled by South Africans, too

It will eventually be joined by 11 other BW4 wind farms – including its sister project, Kangnas – in adding total of 1.3 GW to the country’s clean energy generation capacity.

One notable achievement in Perdekraal East’s construction was the development of a domestic supply chain in line with Department of Energy requirements. In all, more than 48% of its content was manufactured in South Africa, including its 48 turbine towers, 500MVA mega transformer and other components previously only available as imports.

The commitment extended to employment opportunities, too. The majority of the construction workforce were drawn from the local communities of Ceres, Nduli, Bella Vista and Prince Alfred Hamlet. And whereas specialist skills once had to be brought in, project roles such as crane operators were filled by South Africans.

Commenting on the benefits to neighbouring communities, local ward councillor Dirk Swart said: "As well as large numbers of local employment, many NGOs have received extensive support, especially for Covid-19 relief programmes.

"In addition, an Early Childhood Development facility has been built, in partnership with Bread Africa, to provide extra classrooms that can accommodate children with special needs."

The wind farm has funded Covid relief initiatives like Marinda Mankapan's mask-making enterprise

Another sector that felt the economic windfall from the wind farm build was the logistics and transportation industry, which managed the delivery of 480 turbine components from the west coast’s Port of Saldanha and Atlantis to the project site.

Turbine supplier Siemens Gamesa, construction contractor Concor and the electrical specialists Conco Consortium were all involved in the delivery of the project, which resumed in late May under strict Covid safety protocols after the site was locked down for 50 days.

Mainstream Construction Programme Manager Christo Loots said: "As we enter this new phase, we are pleased to note that employment opportunities, skills development, socio-economic development and enterprise development are just some of the ways local communities will benefit during the wind farm’s commencing 20-year operational period."

Perdekraal East Wind Farm will generate an estimate 368,800 MWh/year of clean electricity into the grid, enough to power more than 52,000 South African homes. Just as importantly, it will eliminate some 410,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions each year compared to traditional fossil fuel power plants, and consume almost no water in the generation process.

Construction manager Glenn Hobson is enthusiastic about South Africa's renewable energy future

Local communities will also continue to benefit in terms from investment from the wind farm, with 2.8% of its revenue being committed to socio-economic development projects in the area, and 0.2% on enterprise development over the next 20 years.

Glenn Hobson, Construction Project Manager for Perdekraal Wind Farm, said: "South Africa’s renewables story is truly inspirational. We are transitioning towards a renewable future, which facilitates multiple opportunities for growth and development, within areas and communities that for decades have lacked infrastructure, investment and sustainable employment opportunities.

"It’s also a chance to work towards solving one of the most pressing challenges of our time; reducing the use of fossil fuels and the associated reduction of greenhouse gas emissions."