New wind turbine factory opens in tech hub

2014-11-05 18:14 - Matthew le Cordeur
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Department of Trade and Industries (DTI) Minister Rob Davies cuts the ribbon to officially open the GRI factory in Atlantis. (Photo: Andrew Brown).

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Cape Town – A breath of fresh air swept through the Green Technology Industrial Park in Atlantis on Wednesday as a R300m wind turbine tower production facility was launched amid a national panic over electricity supply.

GRI Renewable Industries’ investment could not have come at a better time, after a silo collapsed at Majuba Power Station in Mpumalanga on Saturday, shedding its capacity and plunging the country into a further energy crisis.

GRI, which produces 1 200 wind towers a year, has nine other factories worldwide, and are known as the leader in wind turbine manufacturing.

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With South Africa’s energy demand expected to double by 2030, alternative energy sources have become a priority. Not only will the factory produce 150 turbine towers per year, contributing to this need, but it will also employ and upskill 200 local members of the Atlantis community.

GRI CEO Javier Imaz said: “Not only will this investment offer a realistic solution to the current fragile power situation, but we will be deploying and sharing our know-how with the local market and at the same time generating additional job creation opportunities. We see a bright future for South African-developed renewable energy, both locally and also in Africa, not just as users but suppliers as well."

Cape Town’s vision

That was music to Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille’s ears. “I get so much bad news and I need my weekly dose of good news and this is it,” she said at the launch. “You have breathed new life into Atlantis [which is 40km from Cape Town].”

“The City of Cape Town recognised the social and economic challenges in this area and saw an opportunity,” she said, in reference to their green tech hub initiative. “Where some saw unemployment, we saw a pool of labour; where some saw sparse land, we saw land with grand values strategically placed next to transport facilities.”

Focus on green energy

Department of Trade and Industries (DTI) Minister Rob Davies told Fin24 that government was encouraging the search for new sustainable energy practices with various tax incentives, helping businesses and local government to actively seek tangible and immediate solutions to this growing problem.

“The DTI has a suite of incentives to help the development of the industry,” he said.

“You will get a flat rate of corporate tax of 15%, you will get a building allowance, you will get exemption from some VAT and customs duty and an employment incentive,” he said.

In terms of this plan, which is a 20-year projection on electricity demand and production, about 42% of electricity generated must come from renewable resources.

“Our ability to support the big shift to green energy must be driven to support manufacturing development to SA and not importing it,” said Davies. “There is a bright future for renewable energy to solve the energy crisis, which is a constraint on industry.”

He said that the SEZ (Special Economic Zones) Act was also pushing to see more zones created such as Atlantis.

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All about the factory

The 12 000 m² factory integrates the use of energy saving technologies designed to maximise the benefits of natural lighting and ventilation. The 350m long factory has custom-designed storage space, allowing each completed tower section to be stored on site.

Each section can weigh up to 90 tonnes, and measure 38 metres in length, and five metres in diameter. In addition there is permanently installed logistic machinery to move and load the completed sections.

The company hopes to reach full production volume in 18 months, and in the process will develop a highly skilled and motivated workforce, contributing towards sustainable and responsible power generation.

Imaz said: “Our investment in this new state of the art wind turbine tower production facility clearly demonstrates our long term commitment to South Africa and also positions GRI Wind as open for business and willing to partner local enterprises to develop sustainable wind energy facilities in South Africa.”

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- Fin24.

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