Wind energy generation can be seen as mature technology, with no major technical constraints. The disadvantage of wind power is that it is intermittent and only available when the wind is blowing. Despite wide variation in the strength and speed of wind, the world’s total wind energy resource is extremely large. One estimate suggests that using only 1% of the planet’s land area for wind energy would be enough to equal roughly all power-generation capacity worldwide today [WEC, 2013].
Much of South Africa’s coastal region is suitable for wind power, specifically in the Eastern and Western Cape. The first fully commercial wind farm in South Africa was the Coega Wind Farm.
Figure: Energy resources: Wind power [Eskom, 2015b]
The vast amount of open terrain and the low population density of South Africa support the business case for wind energy, especially if you compare it to countries located in western and central Europe. Similar to the model adopted for fossil-fuel powered stations where the energy sources were located far from the end user, wind energy also share the same drawback. The energy demands for energy intensive users are located in the northern, central and eastern parts of the country whilst the wind potential is located in the southern and eastern parts of the country. With this said, only 0.6% of South Africa’s available land mass is required to services it total energy demand by means of wind power, although not practically possible. To give a perspective of South Africa’s wind potential: if wind farms were to be installed all across the country except in exclusion zones such as national parks and settled areas, amounts to 6 700 GW. This wind fleet would be large enough to supply the entire world’s electricity demand [CSIR, in Forder, 2016].
Figure:Mean wind speed [DoE, 2014]
Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (2016) ‘Wind power potential in South Africa on par with solar – recent CSIR study shows’.
Department of Energy (2014) ‘Wind resource maps for WASA domain’, South Africa
Forder, S. (2016) ‘There are grounds for optimism about South Africa’s energy future – 2050’. Paper developed for WWF Internal Strategy Process. (Unpublished).
World Energy Council (2013) ‘World Energy Resources’, WEC. London.