South Africa's first wind farm is in operation
Construction on the project, which is situated near Darling in the Western Cape, started in September 2007. The first energy was produced in May 2008. There are four wind turbines installed, which in one year produce 8.6 gigawatt hours per year of green energy or the equivalent of the yearly consumption of some 700 average South African households. The turbines tower 50 meter above ground, where three rotor blades (each the length of a tennis court), and the nacelle, housing the generator and the gearbox, can be found.
The blades rotate slowly at a constant speed, regardless of the wind speed. The system will closed down if the wind exceeds 97km/h.
A computer continuously monitors the turbines with more than 100 sensors detecting factors such as wind speed and direction, turbine direction, vibrations, electricity produced, temperature and more. Wireless technology allows remote control of the Darling Wind Farm via the internet from anywhere around the world, which also allows for 24 hour monitoring and swift response in case of emergency.
The development of the Wind Farm came about when former minister of mineral and energy affairs Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka proposed the Darling Wind Farm as a national demonstration project in 2000. She requested international assistance in developing wind energy from the UN Global Environment Facility, UN Development Programme (UNDP) and Danish International Development Agency. That assistance led to the South African Wind Energy Programme (Sawep), a project to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through the promotion of wind power. It facilitated the creation of the Darling Wind Farm.
The City of Cape Town has agreed to buy energy from the Darling Wind Farm. The City then on-sells the energy to buyers who are prepared pay a premium for green energy.
"The establishment of Darling had an important catalytic effect in promoting wind energy in South Africa, as it showed that on-grid wind could be a reality," says Lucas Black of the UNDP's Global Environment Facility unit.
According to the Darling Wind Farm website, the next stage of the project will consist of 10 wind generators.