Global wind and solar company Mainstream Renewable Power believes that the wind and the sun could be a base load alternative power source for South Africa.
Research done by the company in South Africa shows that when wind and solar generation are combined, the two provide a significant contribution to base load power. Mainstream analysed wind and solar resource data from 2013 for 18 wind and solar sites across South Africa. Government statistics show South Africa has already added 4 322 megawatts of renewable energy capacity in less than four years.
While wind and solar power have steadily been increasing in South Africa, critics have pointed out that this would never be able to supply South Africa with consistent base load energy. Up to now, only nuclear and coal power stations were believed to be able to supply South Africa with critical base load power. A base load power plant is a power station that usually provides a continuous supply of electricity – without interruptions.
Mainstream said its preliminary analysis of South Africa’s resources reveal that solar and wind power closely follow the nation’s electricity demand profile, meaning they generate power at the time of day it is most needed. Also, when wind and solar generation are combined, the net effect is a significant contribution to base load power.
Mainstream Renewable Power’s CEO, Eddie O’Connor, said: “Envisioning the future, South Africa has enough wind and solar energy to power itself.
“This is significant because the wind blows and the sun shines when electricity is most needed, and this is not something that occurs with such regularity in other global markets.”
Mainstream is now the biggest renewable outfit in South Africa. The company has been awarded 848MW of wind and solar projects under the renewable energy independent power producer procurement programme since the first award in 2011, which is more than any other developer in the country.
O’Connor said South Africa was now delivering the cheapest renewable energy in the world, largely because of its successful procurement programme.
Prices in the programme’s competitive bidding rounds have changed dramatically over time.
In wind energy, round-one bids were accepted at 115c per kilowatt-hour and round two came in at 100c/kWh. Round three was accepted at 74c/kWh and, by the time round four was reached in August 2014, the bid price had dropped to 62c/kWh. The same process caused solar power to be bid down from 275c/kWh in round one to 79c/kWh in round four.
O’Connor said the cost of electricity offered by the most recent renewable energy projects is now well below that predicted by state energy utility Eskom’s future coal plants. The predicted cost of electricity from Medupi in Limpopo is 128c/kWh.