Ushering Winds of Change for SA and the World

Ushering Winds of Change for SA and the World

Wind energy has come a long way in making the significant contribution that it is in the world today, says Brian Cunningham, C&I Development Manager at Red Rocket.

As the world observes Global Wind Day on the 15th of June, he joins millions who reflect on the day as an opportunity to recognise the importance of wind energy and its role in the global energy mix.

“It is also a day to remind ourselves of how far we have come in a relatively short period of time. Wind energy is now contributing almost 8% of the global electricity supply. In 2001, the installed capacity of wind energy was only 24GW, in 2023 it reached 1 021GW,” he said.

Originally from Ireland, Brian has extensive experience managing renewable energy projects. In his role, he drives our objectives by securing opportunities with private off-takers to grow our project portfolio. Looking back on his renewable energy career which started in 2007 in Ireland, he marvels at the large scale of things today.

“My first wind farm was with Enercon E48 turbines. These turbines had 23m-long blades, a capacity of 800kW and no internal lifts. The wind farms in Ireland are typically very small in installed capacity and have large numbers of landowners on small farms within the wind farm.

“I have been working in South Africa for 12 years now and we are building wind farm clusters of close to 3000MW on 100 000 hectares of land and using turbines with capacities of 7MW. The blades are over 80m long. The scale of the wind farms in South Africa is mind-boggling but also very exciting as we look to install much more wind capacity globally,” he said.

According to him, the immediate challenge the wind industry is facing in South Africa is access to an unconstrained grid, and transparent rules on how REIPPPP projects and C&I projects can compete for grid access.

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“The various departments and government bodies are working on this and in the near future, we should have a clear way forward. Once in place, this will help to ensure South Africa can install much more wind farms in the future.”

Despite the challenges, there is optimism as the proven benefits of renewable energy projects show this energy source as one that has unlocked countless opportunities for South Africa. “Wind energy is a fantastic solution for providing electricity during the peak hours and during the nighttime hours.

“This is crucial to the energy mix and when paired with the solar energy generation in SA, we can ensure that a very large proportion of our energy production comes from renewable sources. Given the remote and dispersed locations of the wind energy in South Africa, this provides much-needed employment and support to rural communities throughout the country,” he said.

Looking ahead, it’s the groundbreaking projects and their massive potential that fill him with anticipation about the future of Red Rocket and South Africa.

“I am very excited to see our Britstown cluster being connected to the grid. The 765kV substation connection for the wind farm will be the largest grid-connection project for any renewable facility in the country.

“More generally in South Africa, I hope to see wind energy providing over 20% of the electricity mix. With the advent of the C&I market in SA, I think we will see the installed capacity of wind farms increase dramatically in the coming years,” he said.

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