Offshore wind and Hydrogen | South Africa

Speaking with a round table of global financiers last evening leaves me more convinced than ever that South Africa represents a real-world trial of the realities of the energy transition and is well placed to play a pivotal role in the energy transition and there are many projects being considered to make this happen.

South Africa’s hydrogen ambitions are driven partly by her decarbonization goals, and partly by a desire to support economic growth and exports.

Hydrogen is seen as an opportunity to revamp the country’s industrial sector and achieve its emissions reduction goals by 2050 while reducing socioeconomic inequality.

The country’s vision is guided by its Hydrogen Society Roadmap (HSRM) released last February, which sets clear targets to reach by 2050. 

She aims to deploy 10 gigawatts (GW) of electrolysis capacity in Northern Cape by 2030 and produce about 500 kilotons of hydrogen annually by 2030.

This growth is forecasted to create 20,000 jobs annually by 2030 and 30,000 by 2040.

Indeed, I took part in a discussion around the scale of ambition with UNIDO as far back as 2020:

South Africa wishes to become a major producer and exporter of green hydrogen, capturing a 4 percent global market share by 2050.

South Africa’s hydrogen strategy reflects several priorities: a desire to decarbonize its economy, an effort to create economic growth, an aim for pursuing a just transition away from coal, and a way to fully exploit its critical mineral resources.

The country has assets relevant for hydrogen: expertise in the Fischer-Tropsch process, abundant renewable energy resources, and major production capacity of platinum group metals (PGM), a key input for hydrogen applications.

PGMs, in particular, offer an opportunity to develop a globally relevant industry, capturing local value added from a resource that is now exported as a raw material.

A cornerstone of the government’s hydrogen strategy is a Platinum Valley,” an industrial cluster to combine various applications into integrated hydrogen ecosystem.


Ammonia projects are underway and Schalk Venter, CEO of Afrox, recently remarked, “Southern Africa is one of a few regions around the world with very favourable conditions for green hydrogen and ammonia production and export. 

We are excited to be working on this transformative project in Nelson Mandela Bay with Hive Hydrogen South Africa to deliver the project’s full envisaged capacity producing 780,000 tons of Ammonia annually for export to world markets. Through our parent company’s engineering division, proven global expertise and technology, we’ll support this project’s feasibility, engineering design and development phases”.”.

Enter Offshore Wind:

Significantly, the country is favourable positioned for a big ramp up of fixed and floating offshore wind with a recent study revealing that South Africa has an annual offshore wind energy production potential of 44.52 terawatt hours (TWh) of electricity if wind turbines were to be installed in shallow waters (depths of less than 50m) and 2 387.08TWh with wind turbines in deeper waters (depths less than 1 000m).

Technical potential for offshore wind; World Bank

South Africa’s entire 2,500 km coastline has wind speeds over 7 m/s; however the waters are deep (>50

m) and the currents on the southern and eastern coasts are some of the strongest in the world which will  present a significant challenge, particularly for floating wind.

On the eastern coast around Durban, there is a small area of less than 50 m water depth which has a technical potential for 18 GW of fixed foundation offshore wind.

Moving clockwise along the coast west from Durban up to the Namibian border, there is a strip of water between 50 m and 1,000 m off the coastline that has a technical potential of 567 GW for floating wind.

If the government applies restrictions on the minimum required distance from shore, the area’s economic potential would decrease. However, there is a 200 m deep plateau directly below the southernmost tip of Africa which stretches 200 km from shore, which might be suitable for early stage floating wind, and alone has a technical potential of 204 GW. Transmission to demand centers

Power demand is concentrated in the northeast of South Africa, with major demand being in the southwest around Cape Town. 

Floating wind resources around Cape Town are particularly good. There is a 765 kV grid connection with plans for reinforcement which could transfer power to the north. German delegations and companies in particular are seizing the opportunity with delegations having already visited the pivotal Cape Town area.

Similarly, Durban has a 765 kV grid connection.

Growth in renewables will shift the balance of generation to the southeast requiring substantial investment in grid infrastructure, which would assist offshore wind power evacuation. Relevant policies and targets:

A draft of the Integrated Resource Plan was updated in March 2019 and shows a substantial increase in renewables with wind power rising to 15.1 percent of generation by 2030. However, there is no mention of offshore wind.38 Fit with regional offshore wind market: The offshore wind potential is of such a size that it would not need to depend on regional demand.

The South African energy transition is underway and demonstrable as we can see the physical scale of the hydrogen ambition!

I’m looking forwards to meeting last evening’s finance cohort in person and, with the supply chain also in evidence, an exciting opportunity awaits in Johannesburg.

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