/Wheeling electricity is one way to address energy challenges

Wheeling electricity is one way to address energy challenges

Electricity wheeling as a way to address South Africa’s energy woes has just been proven as a concept with the successful commissioning of the Adams Solar farm in the Northern Cape, South Africa.

Wheeling is the act of transporting energy from a generator to a remotely located end-user through an existing distribution or transmission system. It does not mean the electrons entering the transmission network at point A will be used at point B. It is, rather, the act of balancing the energy from a particular generator with the consumption by an end-user, while hopefully also addressing system losses.

The existence of wheeling frameworks at the municipal level in South Africa, coupled with the potential for energy trading, opened the market on that level when NERSA introduced regulations in 2011. And, as Dom Wills, SOLA group CEO points out the change in the NERSA process from requiring a full generation licence for projects of 1MW-100MW to only requiring registration for projects up to 100MW has been a good step.

SOLA Group set up the Amazon Web Services wheeling deal. “The wheeling agreement took around 6 months to set up and the project took 8 months to construct before it started delivering energy,” explained Wills.

Located in the Northern Cape the Adams Solar Farm is expected to generate up to 28,000MWh of energy annually, contributing to South Africa’s clean energy goals.

The project is a single-axis tracking plant consisting of more than 24,000 bifacial solar modules covering 20 hectares. The project will result in an estimated 25,000 tons of carbon emissions avoided annually, equivalent to removing 5,400 internal combustion vehicles from the road in a year.

Wheeling through existing power projects can help speed up the process
Wills said including wheeling in this project was important because it allowed the generation of electricity to be geographically distanced from site use. “This means that the energy generation, in this case solar, can take place where there are the best resources, thus lowering costs of the energy. It is also quicker because wheeling allows the use of a permitted project as opposed to an onsite project where permits and environmental impact study would have to start from scratch,” he explained.

SOLAR Group had enough large-scale renewable energy projects and the appetite for trying something new to tackle the laborious process of acquiring necessary approvals from NERSA and Eskom to make the wheeling deal happen. Still, Wills hopes the process timing will be improved to encourage more deals like this.

“The initial approval is supposed to happen within 10 days, following submission to the Electricity Sub-Committee, which can take a further 60 days. This is too long. NERSA should either reduce that period or remove the requirement for the approval at the Electricity Sub-Committee,” Wills suggested.

He definitely recommends wheeling as a way forward to address South Africa’s energy troubles: “Yes, the first reason is to use permitted projects that are good for solar and wind, with good grid connections and minimal environmental impact to be used. This makes it faster. The second reason is that there are lower tariffs from these good sites as they can be larger and have better renewable resources. So, it’s better in terms of scale, cost and time.”

By Theresa Smith: www.esi-africa.com