The long-awaited sign-off of agreements with 27 renewable energy projects will hopefully revitalise South Africa's efforts to build the green energy sector and enhance power generation capacity, says Johnson Crane Hire sales executive Peter Yaman.
'The construction of wind farms around South Africa created some exciting new opportunities for the crane hire sector,' says Yaman, 'and Johnson Crane Hire took full advantage to participate in the major wind farm projects to date, both here and in Namibia.'
The recent move by new Energy Minister Jeff Radebe to put the department's Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Projects (REIPPP) initiative back on track is intended to re-confirm government's commitment not only to renewable energy but also to its partnership with the private sector. The programme is expected to bring R56 billion in new investment into the economy over the next two to three years.
'This is good news for the economy, and for versatile and well-equipped operators like us,' says Yaman. 'We have constantly upgraded our heavy lift capability, and this has served us well in conducting lifts for wind farms. In particular, we have used a state-of-the-art LTR 11200 hydraulic telescopic narrow-track crawler crane with 1,200 tonne capacity – which is ideal for this application – as well as an LG 1750 lattice-boom truck-mounted crane with 750 tonne capacity.'
He highlights how larger cranes can speed up projects and improve safety on site, by lifting complete equipment instead of smaller, individual parts, which would still need to be assembled at height.
'The components that make up a wind turbine are mostly large and very heavy, and they need to be lifted to extreme heights,' he says. 'We look forward to being able to demonstrate the benefits of larger cranes as more projects are now initiated in the region's wind energy and the broader renewable energy sector.'
He cautioned, however, that lifting on wind farms has a range of its own challenges, many emanating from the high wind factor that naturally characterises the areas where wind farms are established.
'Planning is vital in all lifting activities, but is especially important on wind farms,' says Yaman. 'For instance, it is often necessary to conduct lifts at night because this is when the strength of the wind has dropped to acceptable levels.'
He emphasised that as the demand for larger capacity cranes has continued, Johnson Crane Hire has kept abreast of the trend by continuing to invest in larger lift capacity. The company has a wide range of cranes in its fleet, including hydraulic, telescopic, lattice-boom crawler and lattice-boom truck-mounted cranes.
'Crane hire remains a highly specialised activity, with expensive capital equipment supported by specialist technicians and certified operators,' he concludes. 'With all these factors, combined with the compliance requirements, it is not surprising that most construction and mining companies prefer to rely on crane rental specialists rather than own and operate this equipment themselves.'