the first multi-watt wind turbines to be built in SA

Submitted by ConsciousBabe on Wed, 2011-11-30 12:49

Plans for locally manufactured multi-megawatt turbines: A milestone for our local green economy?

The intimidating size of the blade mould was obviousThe intimidating size of the blade mould was obvious

Last week marked the launch of I-WEC’s rotor blade workshop, together with Western Cape Economic Development MEC Alan Winde and Connect’d Cape Town. Now we will see for the first time in history wind turbine blades manufactured in our very own country. With the Western Cape government’s ambitious target for renewable energy at 15% by 2014, I guess it’s about time.

The company I-WEC or ‘Isivunguvungu (meaning “big wind” in Xhosa) Wind Energy Converter’ will be making up to eighteen 50m wind turbine blades during the next 6 months.
The first of these multi-megawatt turbines will be erected at ArcelorMittal in Saldanha. Hopefully by the end of the project six 130m-high wind turbines manufactured locally by locals will be up and running.

‘Along the coast or a bit inshore are the most windy areas,’ says Arnold Rix, one of I-WEC’s engineers. ‘You do not need a lot of wind power to turn those huge blades - it is designed for our local wind speed of an average 7 ½ metres per second.’

These men will be making the first of SA's multi-megawatt wind turbinesThese men will be making the first of SA's multi-megawatt wind turbines

More than two times bigger than the Darling wind turbines, once this project is completed you will be able to fit up to 300 people standing shoulder to shoulder along the length of a single blade. Weighing 12 tons, the widest stretch of a blade will be 2 ½ metres while its thinnest will be around 300mm.

For this specific job, 15 men from the West Coast’s Vredenburg have been training in composite materials for the last 2 months. These blades are going to be created from a combination of resin and fibreglass, creating a substance that is very hard and very light. This will be the first time something like this has been attempted in Africa, let alone South Africa.

‘Through doing this we are showing the rest of the world that South Africa can produce world-class multi-watt wind turbines,’ Arnold goes on to say. ‘We want to be able to supply local wind turbine developers with the best of the best.

Samuel Raseobi hopes to make the most of his opportunity with I-WECSamuel Raseobi hopes to make the most of his opportunity with I-WEC

Samuel Raseobi, 26 years old, used to be a safety rep at the Saldanha steel factory, but landed this job when he answered an advert posted in the Weslander newspaper. Being trained at present as a technician by I-WEC experts, he is now closer than ever to his dream of becoming a mechanical engineer.

Charles Dokter, another I-WEC composite trainee, hopes one day to be able to start his own business. A national education framework is busy being implemented so that the guys may eventually be accredited with proper qualifications.

Other than local experts, Chinese and European renewable energy professionals will be arriving in the country within the next few weeks to help advise on this project.

For anyone who cares about the development of renewable technologies in South Africa, watch this space .