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Winds of change light up the Cape

Approved as the country's first independent power producer in 2005, it has taken more than a decade for Darling Wind Power to realise its dream of harnessing wind power to produce energy. Darling Wind Power is owned by CEF (SOC) Ltd, the Oelsner Group and other shareholders.

Hermann Oelsner, who is also the vice-president of the World Wind Energy Association, is the CEO of the company. He came to South Africa from Germany in 1968. Inspired by projects in India and many countries in Europe, Oelsner saw the potential in South Africa for wind-generated power, which could be added to the country's power grid.  

"I was attracted to the beauty and the potential of the country. A lot of people complain about the wind at the coast, but we should use it - your hairstyle may be affected, but it's better than sitting in the dark," he said.

The Cape Town municipality will buy the 13 000 megawatt hours a year produced by the first phase of the project, enough to meet half the electricity requirements of the city council's head office.

Although the first phase of the project will see only four turbines operational, Oelsner has high hopes for the potential of wind- produced energy, given the current energy crisis, and is determined for the project to succeed.

The final components needed for the first phase of the project are expected to arrive in March, and Oelsner expects to be producing "clean" energy by April.

"The potential for South Africa is great," Oelsner said. "Germany has 18 000 turbines which produce 20 000 megawatts of electricity - equal to half of South Africa's electricity consumption. Considering South Africa is three and a half times the size of Germany and that our coast is seven times longer, we would be more than able to produce a substantial amount of electricity to our grid."

In addition to the added energy, the establishment of wind farms would also lead to the creation of jobs and skills development.

"Research has shown that wind farms generate four times more jobs than coal-operated power stations and 10 times more than nuclear power stations. This means that skilled workers are not being taken away from other industries, but rather there is an opportunity for job creation and skills development," said Oelsner.

More than a quarter of the necessary components needed for the turbines are made in South Africa, including cables and plates, and Oelsner is  also planning on building a training and education centre.

Looking forward to the results of the first phase of operation at the Darling Wind Farm, Oelsner said he was determined to see the project succeed and hopes to see wind farms throughout the country.

"I am like a boxer in the twelfth round, I am not sure where to turn, but I won't give up," he said.