Western Cape Tourist AttractionsHopefield Wind Farm
Thirty seven 1.8 MW wind turbines grace the farmland of the Swartland, 5km south-east of Hopefield, on the Western Cape's West Coast. They are hard to miss, standing erect against the blue of the sky.
At the close of 2014 Hopefield wind farm brought to 400 the number of wind turbines across South Africa. All in all, the country plans 27 wind farms with an anticipated 700 turbines, generating in the region of 2 000 MW of power across the next 20 years. The country's long term goal is 10 000 GWh of renewable energy.
In July of the same year that Hopefield went into production, a R3-billion wind venture just outside Jeffrey's Bay brought 60 wind turbines into commission. And a further wind farm just outside Caledon in the Overberg erected a further nine wind turbines.
It is interesting to look at the significant difference in cost between wind energy and coal-produced energy. Wind farm power is as much as 30 percent cheaper. That is without adding the extra cost of pollution produced by coal.
Another factor that makes wind energy so much more palatable than coal energy is the compulsory shareholdings of local communities (those who live within a radius of 50 km of the wind farms). Whilst it will take up to 10 years for the wind farms to become profitable, once they are, these communities stand to gain.
Hopefield wind farm was developed by Umoya Energy. The turbines have 'feathered' blades so that even in low wind speeds the turbines produce energy. Surveillance, interestingly, of the turbines happens remotely in Europe, as most errors relate to software. The huge towers for the turbines, however, were produced in South African factories.
Hopefield also benefits from its proximity to the national grid, just 2km from the wind farm. And it was easy to erect the turbines given its access to Saldanha Bay port, from where the hubs, blades and nacelles (contains the low and high speed shafts, gearbox, brake and generator) arrived.
The noise the turbines generate is apparently a lot quieter than one thinks, given the strict noise guidelines. Interestingly, whilst the blades may appear to turn slowly, their huge diameter means that the tip of the blade is actually turning at over 300 km per hour.