Small steps wind farming South Africa

Small Darling Wind Farm, the first in South Africa, shows that wind energy is feasible. It reflects the collaborative efforts of international donors, government agencies and the private sector.

Three blades – each the length of a tennis court – revolve atop a wind energy tower reaching 50 metres into the sky, equal in height to a 17-storey building. There are four such turbines whirling in the hot, dry and windy landscape near the town of Darling in South Africa’s Western Cape, generating 7 gigawatt hours per year of green energy.

The development of the Darling Wind Farm, which was established in 2008, was fraught with obstacles. This was mainly because large-scale wind farming was new to South Africa and institutional arrangements were not yet in place to allow independent power producers to feed energy into the national grid.

What made the difference was that the then minister of mineral and energy affairs proposed the Darling Wind Farm as a national demonstration project in 2000. She also requested international assistance in developing wind energy from the Global Environment Facility, UN Development Programme (UNDP) and Danish International Development Agency.

That assistance led to the South African Wind Energy Programme (SAWEP), a project to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through the promotion of wind power. It facilitated the creation of the Darling Wind Farm.

As the Darling Wind turbines revolve at a constant speed of 32 revolutions per minute, they represent the baby steps of an industry whose time has come.

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