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21 Jan 2022

A windy success for a small South African community

A windy success for a small South African community
Image credit: EDF Renewables

The Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) has acknowledged that South Africa continues to be the number one wind power market in Africa with 2.5GW of cumulative wind power capacity installed in the country. This is supported by the national Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REIPPPP).

The Wesley-Ciskei Wind Energy Facility near the small towns of Wesley, Gcinisa and Hamburg in South Africa’s Eastern Cape province marks several ‘firsts’ for renewable energy development in the country.

This project is renewable energy developer and operator EDF Renewables South Africa’s fourth wind project in the region. It entered commercial operation in August 2021 – one month ahead of schedule despite working through the challenges of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 34.5MW wind farm was selected as part of the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REIPPPP) Bid Window 4 in June 2015. A power purchase agreement (PPA) was concluded by EDF Renewables with the national utility Eskom in April 2018, when financial closure was also reached on the project – the first of the Round 4 projects to do so.

Construction of the wind farm then commenced in September 2019 and the majority of the construction works were undertaken during COVID-19 restrictions, including a maximum lockdown when all construction activities had to cease for eight weeks. Upon reopening, strict health and safety protocols had to be introduced, focused on a range of measures to combat the spread of the virus.


The wind farm is comprised of ten Vestas V126-3.45 turbines. The technology employed includes some of the largest turbines installed in South Africa, with a hub height of 117m and each blade 63m long to stand 180m tall.

“It was a big transportation challenge to navigate the South African road network with extremely heavy turbine components and blades of up to 63m in length,” says EDF Renewables Project Manager, Carl Wlotzka.

The delivery to the site and installation was completed in just two months.


The Wesley-Ciskei project holds great significance for the Eastern Cape province as the first and onl y wind energy project located in one of its former homelands, despite these representing almost 40% of the landmass and host to 60% of the population.

Thus some key benefits have been the creation of numerous construction jobs and several key economic development initiatives in the community, including a small business development and upskilling programme.

The objective was to assist approximately 50 small businesses in the communities surrounding the project site in upskilling in areas including health and safety, communications, finance and tendering.

The programme was facilitated by the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants’ Enterprise Development arm. A bursary scheme also assisted two students in the local community to study at an institution of higher learning.

During the hardest period of lockdown, the project delivered over 400 food parcels, including face masks and sanitisers, to vulnerable households in the local communities. The face masks and hand sanitisers were sourced from local businesses and manufacturers.

Some key benefits have been the creation of numerous construction jobs and several key economic development initiatives in the community.

To assess the socio-economic impacts on the local communities, the project is the subject of an academic study by the University of the Free State. Phase 1 of the study developed a baseline of the area.

The data from phase 2 – conducted following the completion of the construction phase – is currently under review.


The location of the Wesley-Ciskei wind farm is close to the Eastern Cape coast, where the wind regime is good.

“We are proud to be playing a key role in contributing to South Africa’s renewable energy goals and the economic development of the Eastern Cape region,” says Tristan De Drouas, CEO of EDF Renewables in South Africa.

The facility was supported by Power Africa, the US Agency for International Development initiative to support access to power in Africa, and its local partner Standard Bank.

EDF Renewables’ other existing installations include the 21MW Chaba Wind Farm near Komga which entered operation in September 2015, the 24.6MW Waainek Wind Farm near Grahamstown which started operations in January 2016 and the 61.5MW Grassridge Wind Farm near Motherwell which started generating energy in June 2016. All of the power generated is delivered to Eskom as the single buyer.

There are several large projects in the pipeline for the business. Earlier this year, in September 2021, EDF Renewables and its partner Pele Green Energy were selected in a tender by mining company AngloAmerican Platinum for a first of its kind large corporate solar PV project. The consortium plans to build a 100MW power plant at the Mogalakwena platinum mine, Limpopo province. The low-carbon electricity produced each year will be used to power the mine, replacing carbon-intensive grid power with renewable energies.

Also, in March 2021, EDF Renewables in consortium with Perpetua Holding, won the Umoyilanga project in the Risk Mitigation IPP Procurement Programme (RMI4P). This project combines solar, wind and battery storage technologies to provide 75MW of dispatchable power to the national grid. It will be comprised of a 77MW hybrid wind energy facility on the coast in the south of the country and a 138MW hybrid solar power plant located more than 900km away in the Northern Cape region.

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