Index Construction of Cookhouse Wind Farm progressing in earnest
Date Added: 02 August 2013

CONSTRUCTION OF COOKHOUSE WIND FARM PROGRESSING IN EARNEST

The Cacadu District is well on its way to taking the lead in renewable energy production in the Eastern Cape. On the 8th of April, the first batch of 16 giant wind turbines, destined for the R2.4 billion Cookhouse Wind Farm, located just outside of Cookhouse in the Blue Crane Route Local Municipality, arrived at the Port of Ngqura, just outside Port Elizabeth. The 138.6 MW, 70-turbine Cookhouse Wind Farm is touted to be the biggest wind farm on the African continent and is the result of a joint venture between African Clean Energy Developments (ACED) and Suzlon Wind Energy South Africa – a subsidiary of the Suzlon Group in India. An additional 124 turbines will be allocated if the need arises. To date, the wind farm is also the biggest project selected in the first round of government’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REIPPPP), which aims to provide enough ‘clean’ electricity for about 145 000 low income houses. “The Cookhouse site was one of the first identified by our company, prior to any government procurement programme. It was earmarked for wind farm development due to a number of favourable characteristics, notably a good wind resource and close proximity to a large Eskom substation,” explained Cookhouse Wind Farm CEO, Dr Jannie Retief, speaking to Cacadu News recently.

He said after exploratory meetings between ACED, the landowners and the Blue Crane Development Agency (the development arm of the Blue Crane Route Local Municipality), initial site designs were developed and an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was carried out. “The development process really took flight in August 2011 when the Department of Energy (DoE) launched the REIPPPP to promote renewable energy development in South Africa. The Cookhouse Wind Farm was announced as one of 28 preferred bidders of the renewable energy projects in December 2011.” Since the wind farm is expected to be fully operational in the second quarter of 2014, Dr Retief said that he was pleased with progress made so far. “Excellent progress is being made. Current progression indicates that the plant should be completed six weeks prior to the scheduled commercial operations date of the 31st of May 2014,” he said.

The Cookhouse wind farm is also expected to benefit the surrounding community of Cookhouse as Dr Retief explained; “The project company, contractors and sub-contractors have made very progressive, beyond compliance, commitments to employ previously disadvantaged individuals and contract South African, black-owned companies on the project. “Moreover, further commitments have been made to contract with women-owned businesses and ensure significant levels of black, top management control… All job creation commitments are higher than the DoE’s recommended targets in terms of jobs….” He said already as many as 195 jobs have been filled by local residents during the construction period, while a number of local companies have also benefitted from being awarded contracts to supply services to the Cookhouse Wind Farm. Dr Retief also stated: “25% of the project will be owned by the local community through the Cookhouse Wind Farm Community Trust – also five times higher than the DoE’s target for local community ownership. “Dividends will flow to this Trust in 2015; a year after the wind farm is operational, which will be allocated to development projects in the local area. Finally, our company will be making contributions to economic development through allocations of a percentage of revenue from the operations of the wind farm.” The Cacadu District has also been chosen for two other wind farms in the Kouga Local Municipality area and one for the Makana Local Municipality, where a solar farm is also on the cards.