Renewable Energy in South Africa

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South Africa is demonstrating its commitment to a more prosperous future growth direction by promoting clean energies and energy conservation, as well as skills development and job creation through the green economy. South Africa is one of the world's top emitters of carbon dioxide, ranking 12th in terms of top emitters per capita, since fossil fuels provide more than 75 percent of the country's primary resources.

With a supportive policy and legislative structure, the country responded to the urgent need to reduce fossil fuel dependence, diversify the energy mix and supply, and reduce the country's carbon footprint by using the excellent local renewable energy resources, especially wind and solar. South Africa is among the top three sunniest countries in the world, with an average of 2,500 hours of sunshine a year and a radiation level of 4.5 to 6.6 kWh m2. South Africa's total wind power capacity is projected to be 6,7000 GW, which is comparable to the country's solar potential. Furthermore, hydro energy, nuclear energy, biogas fuel, and, to a lesser degree, geothermal energy are all used in South Africa.

For greater sustainability and diversification of energy sourcing, the South African government, the Department of Energy, and the National Energy Regulator have established policies and projects for the procurement and deployment of renewable energy to complement its fossil fuel-based production. As a result, the provincial and regional governments have devised their own policies for promoting renewable energy use. Over 92 Power Producers have been assigned to injecting over 6,300MW of power into the power grid through the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producers Procurement Program (REIPPPP), primarily from solar and wind generation. Green energy adoption has resulted in lower energy production costs, job growth, international investment, and local stakeholder buy-in. These projects are frequently located in rural areas, and they have a positive effect on local communities by creating jobs, promoting growth, and improving quality of life. However, as South Africa integrates this new industry, a number of roadblocks must be overcome.

In most parts of South Africa, there are more than 2 500 hours of sunshine a year, with average solar-radiation levels of 4.5 to 6.6 kWhm2 per day. The Southern African country, and indeed all of Africa, enjoys year-round sunshine. South Africa receives about 220 Wm2 of global solar radiation on an annual basis. As a result, South Africa's solar resources are among the world's best. In South Africa, solar energy is the most readily available resource. It has a wide range of potential applications, and the country's solar equipment industry is currently growing. The annual capacity for photovoltaic (PV) panel assembly is 5MW, and a number of companies in South Africa produce solar water heaters. To some degree, solar water heating is used. Domestic space covers 330 000 m2, swimming pools cover 327 000 m2 (middle-to-high-income), trade and business space cover 45 000 m2, and agriculture space covers 4 000 m2. According to a report by Fitch Solutions, South Africa's rising domestic solar industry is attracting project developers as well as a growing number of manufacturers interested in establishing manufacturing facilities in the region. Jinko Solar, a Chinese solar module manufacturer, opened a factory in Cape Town in August 2014 with a 120MW annual manufacturing capacity. Other solar companies have followed suit since then, including SunPower, ART Solar, and Solairedirect, all of which have developed panel manufacturing facilities in South Africa.

Wind as a source of energy is only feasible in areas with powerful and consistent winds. Equal wind potential exists in South Africa, especially along the coasts of the Western and Eastern Cape. Over and above the prevalence of the wind resource around the coasts, the Wind Atlas built for South Africa provides a framework for quantifying the capacity of wind for power generation elsewhere in the world. The Western and Eastern Cape have produced the majority of wind projects so far. In South Africa, there are approximately 22 fully operational wind farms with over 900 wind turbines distributed across three provinces. This connects to the national grid an estimated 2 078 MW of installed power. In addition, 11 wind farms are being built, with a total capacity of about 1 244 MW. The average size of a wind power plant in South Africa is 93.5 MW, which is significantly higher than the global average.

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Tiny hydroelectricity stations and pumped water storage systems coexist in South Africa. Water is pumped up to a dam in a pumped water storage scheme. Pumping the water requires electricity, but only during off-peak hours. When more energy is required during peak hours, the water is released through a turbine that drives an electric generator. Morning and evening peak hours are normally between six and eight o'clock. The capacity for run-off river hydro projects exists in South Africa's rivers. A variety of proposals for operating facilities within farming communities have shown that these are feasible. The Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal have the best potential for the production of small hydropower plants (less than 10MW). These plants have the advantage of being able to function independently or in a hybrid combination with other renewable energy sources. Other benefits can be obtained from the relationship with other water uses (water supply, irrigation, flood control, and so on) all of which are vital to South Africa's potential economic and socio-economic growth.

The Southern African Power Pool (SAPP) allows for free electricity trading between member countries of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), giving South Africa access to the vast hydropower potential of the countries to the north, especially the Congo River basin (Inga Falls). In terms of hydro imports, South Africa has signed a treaty with the Democratic Republic of Congo to build the Grand Inga Project (DRC). The power intended for South Africa will be transmitted via the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Botswana. Aside from providing renewable energy, the regional development drivers are compelling, especially given that there is currently very little energy exchange between these countries due to a lack of infrastructure. Intra-SADC trade has enormous potential because it opens up economic trade in other industries. Naturally, questions about the risks associated with such a project must be discussed. As a mechanism to reduce the risk of reliance on this generation alternative, South Africa will not import power from a single source beyond its reserve margin. South Africa has previously imported electricity from Mozambique's Cahora Bassa hydropower station, and will do so again once the transmission line is repaired. There's also the possibility of importing more hydropower from Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Zaire. South Africa would become less reliant on coal-fired power plants if this were to happen.

Since the Atomic Energy Act of 1948, which created the South African Atomic Energy Corporation (SAAEC) to oversee the country's uranium mining, nuclear power has been a function in South Africa. South Africa's only nuclear power station, as well as the country's complicated recent past with nuclear power, are examined by Power Technology. Coal is actually the primary source of energy in South Africa. Coal accounted for 227 terawatt-hours (TWh) of the country's total production of 253 TWh in 2016. Nuclear power came in second with 15 TWh, which is produced by only one nuclear plant, the Koeburg Nuclear Power Station. Nuclear power currently provides just under 5% of South Africa's energy needs, but its future in the country has been the subject of intense debate and continuously shifting plans in recent years. South Africa's nuclear power plant is located in Koeburg. On the west coast of South Africa, Koeburg is about 20 miles from Cape Town. The plant consists of two pressurized water reactors (PWRs), each with a capacity of 970MW, for a total capacity of 1.94GW. It is the world's southernmost nuclear power plant and Africa's only nuclear power plant. The plant's construction began in 1976, and unit 1 was connected to the grid on April 4, 1984, and unit 2 on July 25, 1985. The plant was targeted by members of the then-underground African National Congress (ANC), who exploded four explosives at the site on December 20, 1982, during the height of Apartheid. Anti-nuclear organizations such as Greenpeace Africa have targeted it, and it has been the subject of ongoing demonstrations in recent years. The plant is operated by the South African state energy corporation Eskom, which claims that Koeburg is one of the safest PWRs in the world. Eskom revealed in April 2019 that the plant will be upgraded to extend its lifetime by 20 years, to 2044 (Unwin, 2019).

Biogas has the capacity to displace 2,500MW of grid electricity in South Africa today, which is equal to the scale of Eskom's Arnot coal-fired power station in Mpumalanga, which was commissioned in 1975. When you consider that South Africa emits about 1% of global greenhouse gas emissions, that emissions increased by 24.9 percent between 2000 and 2010, that more than 40 million tonnes of biomass and organic waste are produced annually, that agriculture is a key activity in all nine provinces, and that energy costs have risen by more than 300 percent in the last eight years, renewable energy is a no-brainer. Biogas is one of seven major bio-energy applications in South Africa that are competing for the attention of government and private investors. Municipal and industrial sewerage, waste and process water, manure, plant (sugar cane) waste and indigenous grasses, and municipal solid waste are common local feedstock inputs, and the position of farmers and large waste management companies should not be overlooked. The South African Local Government Association (SALGA), livestock farms, pulp and paper producers, food and dairy industries, and abattoirs are among the other sources and collaborators for this waste, with potential for waste pre-treatment, nutrient recovery from digested waste, and farm biogas installations presenting good business cases.

South Africa lacks large-scale geothermal resources that could be used to produce electricity or provide direct heat. Depending on the location and demand for heating and cooling, only heat pump technology is viable. Land or groundwater heat pumps are currently uncommon in South Africa. Since the winters in most parts of South Africa are short and mild, the demand for space heating is much lower than the demand for cooling. Hot water demand varies depending on the building's intended usage, for example, it is high in hotels and hospitals but low in commercial buildings. Due to the underground construction of pipes, ground and groundwater heat pumps are costly, and their financial feasibility must be determined for each case. Payback periods of five to seven years are possible for hotels and hospitals with balanced heating and cooling demands. Domestic structures are unlikely to be financially viable. Air heat pumps for hot water, on the other hand, are a feasible alternative to solar water heaters. If feasible, municipalities can use heat pump technology in their own houses. Technical and financial feasibility, on the other hand, is dependent on local circumstances and the building's intended use, and must be calculated on a case-by-case basis (Harms, 2017).

Finally, I'd like to talk about a significant renewable energy project in South Africa. The Eskom Renewable Energy Project was conceived as part of a research program aimed at examining South Africa's renewable energy resources and finding suitable potential options for meeting the country's renewable energy needs. The program was launched in response to South Africa's rising demand for electricity and the need for Eskom to diversify its energy mix. The project is expected to increase awareness of wind and solar technologies in South Africa, as well as provide an opportunity to recognize implementation, implementation, and operational management problems. The Sere Wind Power Project and the Upington Solar Concentration Project are the two major sub-projects or components. The following metrics will be used to assess the projected outcomes of the present: I increased renewable energy supply; (ii) avoided direct greenhouse gas emissions; (iii) number of jobs created; and (iv) investments in renewable energy projects by support from the Clean Technology Fund.

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Renewable Energy in South Africa. (2022, November 25). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 21, 2024, from
“Renewable Energy in South Africa.” Edubirdie, 25 Nov. 2022,
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