AIIM's investment, Cookhouse Wind Farm reaches commercial operations

05 Jan 2015

Cookhouse, South Africa, December 2014 - Cookhouse Wind Farm, recently completed all required performance tests and grid compliance to reach commercial operations and enable achievement of Commercial Operations Date (COD). This makes it the first project in round 1 of the South African Renewable Energy Independent Power Producers Procurement (REIPPP) programme to connect to the transmission network.

Located near the town of Cookhouse in the Eastern Cape Province, Cookhouse Wind Farm has 66 turbines at 80 metres tall, with a generation capacity of 138.6MW to produce clean, renewable energy under a 20-year Power Purchase Agreement with Eskom. The project was selected as preferred bidder in Round 1 of REIPPP programme and comprises more than 21% of the capacity of the 634MW total Round 1 procured wind energy.

Cookhouse Wind Farm CEO, Jannie Retief, says “The excellent cooperation of contractors, subcontractors, shareholders, lenders, Eskom and owners engineer, underpinned by a strong contractual framework governing these relationships, has supported the realisation of the project. This has made Cookhouse, the largest wind farm in Africa, a reality.

“The project is expected to deliver approximately 370,000 MWh per year of clean energy into the grid, which equates to generating enough electricity to power 138,000 low-income homes or 57,000 medium-income houses,” explains Retief. “To produce the same amount of electricity, an average South African coal-fired power station would emit approximately 384,000 tons of CO2 every year. Avoiding these CO2 emissions is equivalent to taking over 78,000 cars off the road.”

The project has brought together an investment consortium consisting of Infrastructural, Developmental and Environmental Assets (IDEAS) Managed Fund, AFPOC Ltd, African Infrastructure Investment Fund 2 (AIIF2), Nederlandse Financierings Maatschappij voor Ontwikkelingslanden NV (FMO) through their investment in Apollo Investment Partnership II and the Cookhouse Community Trust. The project maintains strong shareholder representation on the board and management committees, which ensures hands-on participation.

The project reached financial close in December 2012, and construction began on site in February 2014. Despite some unexpected challenges, management successfully controlled all project costs within budget, and achieved all its key milestones.

Construction of the facility was completed by Suzlon Energy under a fully-wrapped engineering, procurement and construction contract. The Suzlon team comprises experienced technicians who are expected to be on site for the most of 2015 to carry out ongoing operation and maintenance works. They will also train the 15 technical staff locally recruited from the Eastern Cape who will form the long-term operations and management team for the turbines on site.

Cookhouse Wind Farm has established itself as a market leader in a number of aspects.  Over and above being the largest South African Wind Farm, it is 25% owned by the local community through the Cookhouse Wind Farm Community Trust – five times the governmental target for local community ownership. During its construction period, the project has already supported local charity organisations including soup kitchens, special day care centres for children with disabilities, old age homes, foster care homes and sports facilities. Cookhouse Wind Farm management, supported by the shareholders and the developer, completed the process of establishing a Community Trust, which will ensure that local development projects will continue to benefit from dividends over the 20-year project life. The key focus is sustainable socio-economic development and economic upliftment.

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