Renewable Electricity Potential


South Africa is endowed with multiple renewable energy resources, in particular solar and wind, which were also the most prominent technologies in the recent renewables procurement windows.

The coastline of approximately 3,000 km provides favorable conditions for wind power throughout the country and large areas of flat terrain with high irradiation make an ideal ground for solar power. The east coast is tropical with large wood and sugar plantations creating biomass opportunities. Although South Africa is a water scarce country, opportunities for small-scale hydropower exist and have been exploited over the years. Tidal/wave power may become an important technology in South Africa in the future given potential along its southwest coast.

Physical Potential

Solar Potential

South Africa has an average of more than 2,500 hours of sunshine per year and average direct solar radiation levels range between 4.5 and 6.5 kWh/m2 per day. South Africa’s Northern Cape is one of the most attractive solar resource areas in the world.
Grid-connected Solar PV and CSP.

The Solar Energy Technology Roadmap (SETRM) is a joint initiative of the Department of Energy (DoE) and the Department of Science and Technology (DST) supported by CSIR, SANEDI, the International Energy Agency (IEA) and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) estimated that 40 GW of Solar PV and 30GW of CSP can be developed in South Africa by 2050. Currently contracted capacity, to be installed until 2021, amounts to 2,321 MW for solar PV and 600 MW for CSP. The IRP 2016 envisions 17,600 MW of CSP and solar PV by 2050 in addition to the already contracted capacity.


Solar irradiation map (GHI) South Africa

Solar PV rooftop

The solar PV rooftop market has been steadily growing without much Government support. A voluntary database of small-scale rooftop Solar PV installations suggests that by May 2015 these installations had already reached a total of about 43.8MW. A majority of these Solar PV installations were in the commercial, agriculture, industrial and mining sectors. This is an area that still requires policy refinement at national level. It predicted the combined commercial, industrial and residential installations of rooftop PV in the country is likely to be between 3.5GW and 11.6GW by 2035.

Wind Potential

The Department of Energy (DoE), with international support, developed the Wind Atlas for South Africa (WASA I), which shows fair potential for wind energy in the coastal areas and inland. WASA II currently ongoing cover the remaining areas of the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Free State provinces.

Wind power potential is generally good along the entire coast, with certain areas, such as the coastal promontories, showing very good potential. Moderate inland wind power potential areas include the Eastern Highveld Plateau and the Drakensberg foothills in the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal. So far 3,366 MW of wind power has been contracted and will be implemented by 2022. The IRP 2016 envisions 37,400 MW of additional capacity to be installed by 2050.

Wind speeds (m/s) at 100 m hub-height



Hydro Potential

A South African Renewable Energy Database, as developed by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Eskom and the Department of Energy, investigated the available renewable energy resources in the country, including the potential for hydropower. 247 MW potential for new small-scale Hydro development is believed to exist in the rural areas of the Eastern Cape, Free State, KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga. South Africa only has an installed capacity of 38 MW.
Apart from Eskom’s installed hydropower capacity and number of privately and community-owned systems, it is estimated that around 60 systems have been installed in underground mining areas. No recent study has been conducted on the full potential of hydropower in South Africa.


Small-scale hydropower potential

Bioenergy Potential

Bagasse, bulk from logs and black liquor: Being a semi-arid country, the availability of bioenergy feedstock in South Africa is limited. However, the main sources of potential biomass utilization are wood waste (generated in the commercial forestry industry) and bagasse (generated in the cane sugar industry). Biomass is used commercially in the pulp and paper mills, and in sugar refineries where bulk from logs, black liquor (residue from paper production) and bagasse are burned to produce process heat and generate electricity (a process commonly referred to as own-generation or cogeneration).

Forest residues: In the forestry sector, the volume of waste remaining in the forests is substantial. This waste is a potentially large renewable energy resource that might have use for charcoal, gasification or direct generation of power.

Biofuels: There is high potential for the production of biofuels from energy crops such as sugarcane, sugar beet, sunflowers and canola. However, the low energy density of these food crops makes it uneconomical to transport over long distances and hence they need to be used either close to where they are produced, or condensed for more economical transport. In 2010 data, the study found that ethanol production from sugar cane would be much more expensive than that from grain sorghum in South Africa.

Municipal waste: South Africa disposes of almost all of its refuse in landfill sites. It has been estimated that the total domestic and industrial refuse has an energy content of about 11.000 GWh per annum. This could be directly incinerated or converted into biogas and methane to produce electricity. There have been proposals for such schemes, and some landfill sites already produce electricity, such as the Durban Landfill-Gas-to-Electricity Project, Mariannhill and La Mercy Landfills, Ekurhuleni Landfill Gas Recovery Project, New England Landfill Gas to Energy Project, Alton Landfill Gas to Electricity Project, Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Landfill, and the EnviroServ Chloorkop Landfill Gas Recovery Project.

A national Biomass Atlas is currently being prepared and should provide more detailed information on biomass potential. 51.5 MW of biomass power planted have been contracted so far and will be implemented by 2022.

Wave Energy Potential

The conclusion from the study is that South Africa does have a significant wave energy resource along the southwest coast that could be exploited as a source of renewable energy. Detailed assessment of the spatial distribution of wave power off the southwest coast was conducted and it was found that the average deep-sea resource ranges from 33 kW/m to 41 kW/m.