Thousands of jobs await a Ministerial determination to give the green light for the next round of wind farms to be built.
South Africa Wind Energy Association (SAWEA) says South Africa’s energy transition is poised to unlock economic growth and deliver thousands of much-needed jobs at a time when the country faces staggering unemployment rates.
“The positive impact of continued wind farm construction on the economy, over the next ten years, cannot be overstated. In the construction phase wind energy projects make a significant impact on jobs in different parts of the value chain,” SAWEA CEO Ntombifuthi Ntuli notes.
Twelve wind farms are under construction in South Africa, with each of them making use of high levels of local content.
For example, the Perdekraal East Wind Farm, in the Western Cape, is under construction and providing local employment to community members of Ceres, Nduli, Bella Vista and Prince Alfred Hamlet, while local content exceeds 48% of the project value.
The next ten years will see 17 new wind farms being built each year. SAWEA says tower manufacturing facilities are already set up in the country, with additional capacity and facilities awaiting the government’s next bid round of the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REIPPPP).
Looking specifically at the manufacturing sector that is poised to create jobs, the yearly capacity of 1 600 MW translates to 640 individual towers and 1 920 wind turbine blades each year, explains Ntuli.
The existing lower tower manufacturing facility in Atlantis, on the Cape’s West Coast, currently produces 150 towers a year and has created 340 direct jobs and 200 indirect jobs. Therefore, manufacturing 640 towers locally can potentially create 1 360 direct jobs and about 800 indirect jobs.
DCD Wind Towers, in Nelson Mandela Bay, had to close its doors in April, owing to the REIPPPP having come to a halt. The plant, which has a potential to manufacture up to 300 towers and create 142 direct jobs, is now looking for an investment partner to revitalise production and local jobs.
Ntuli says additional potential exists, should wind tower blades and other components – such as drive trains – be manufactured locally. She points out that the number of jobs could easily scale up to the 8 700, as estimated by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).
Analysis by that CSIR indicates that for the 1.6 GW a year rollout, the wind energy industry can contribute to the creation of more than 16 000 direct jobs a year in the South African economy during the construction phase alone, if the aggregate level of localisation of about 50% is realised.
This equates to about 6 400 direct jobs in the construction sector, about 8 700 direct jobs in the manufacturing sector, about 820 direct jobs in the transportation and logistics sector and about 640 direct jobs in the finance, professional and business services sector.
“Wind energy’s contribution to job creation is often questioned, because the jobs are concentrated in the 24-month construction phase of each wind project, hence society tends to dismiss these jobs on the basis of their short-term nature; however, considering the smooth procurement outlined in the 2019 Integrated Resource Plan, 1.6 GW is going to be commissioned yearly from 2022 to 2030 and will deliver thousands of jobs for a decade,” highlights Ntuli.
According to the Independent Power Producer (IPP) Office’s publication, Focus on Wind, published in June 2019, the wind energy industry has contributed to the creation of 10 892 jobs across the value chain during construction phase from the REIPPPP Round 1 to Round 4 – which has a combined capacity of 3.4 GW.
The 22 wind IPPs that have successfully reached commercial operation, to date, have reported 2 169 operational and management job years for South African citizens.