Magnificent South Africa passes 500 MW!

Published on Monday, 5 June 2017

“With the recent start of operations at Gibson Bay, 111-MW wind farm in Kouga, in the province of Eastern Cape, we’ve exceeded the threshold of 500 MW and completed a undertaking that has featured us in South Africa for six years.”

– Umberto Magrini, Head of Engineering & Construction

Behind the scenes of success

EGP’s work in South Africa started even before we won the competition to build our first plants in the country. The potential of the territory was still uncertain. At that time, no one had even imagined being able to build solar and wind farms so large in this part of the world.

Extensive scouting exercises were necessary to begin first contact with partners and understand how our experience could allow us to do great things in this part of the world.

In order to immediately activate the teams to follow the projects, we immediately brought in people from various countries around the world, such as Italy, Greece, Romania and Spain to then pair them with the new South African colleagues. This close group is a fundamental skill centre for project development throughout Africa, so much so that its experience was quickly exported to different areas of the continent.

“In countries like Zambia, Namibia and Ethiopia, South African team is currently hard at work. They are one of the flagships of the Engineering & Construction division of Enel Green Power.”

At work in the Design Room

The phase of conceptual engineering is essential just before the competition. In South Africa, we carried out detailed studies on feasibility to obtain a competitive advantage that then proved to be fundamental in the third round of the South African government’s programme of incentivisation of renewable sources (REIPPP). Following this first phase, we set up an internal technical board made up of experts from Project Management, Construction and Engineering, colleagues from  O&M and from other specialised disciplines, together with selected suppliers, with whom we’ve optimised the process of basic planning and provided input for executive planning.

“It’s the so-called Design Room, created to make planning standardised and to share the best practices of every department.”

360-degree training

Thousands of people participated in the completion and the launch of the Enel Green Power plants present in South Africa. The wind and solar farms are found in rural areas with no previous industrial expertise, so we thought we would make classes and ad hoc video tutorials to explain to local workers how to put together and install photovoltaic modules and other structures efficiently and in total safety. It may seem trivial, but this activity turned out to be fundamental to overcome language barriers in a nation where English is just the fifth language spoken.

“Training activities, carried out in all of our plants all over South Africa, always in non-industrialised areas, allowed us to start a productive dialogue with the local communities and to become operational in the country in less than 3 months.”

– Fabrizio Fiorani, Head of Construction in Engineering and Construction

If you want something done, do it yourself

In the last six years, about 2.3 million photovoltaic panels left our Sicilian 3SUN factory in order to reach all parts of South Africa, while the large amount of material made it necessary to move more 5,000 vehicles. The entire logistics process was run by Enel Green Power in all its aspects, from construction supervision, to transport, from customs to the final unloading at the site.

“Logistics control offers significant advantages, like the certainty of material traceability, the management of each topic of customs clearance and the entry into a chain that is usually managed completely by the supplier.”

– Luca Rossini, Head of Project Management

In the South African worksites alone, about 3,000 people were employed, a number that could easily be doubled or tripled if we consider the satellite activities generated over the years, which have led to the opening of three factories for the construction of wind towers and inverter cabinets for our plants. We’ve once again confirmed the sustainable approach is the right one: respect for local communities and long-term benefits that can re-launch an entire country’s economy.

Sustainability first of all

Combining business with the needs of the territory where we work has always been our prerogative. Everyone one of our activities is guided by the desire to create shared value (the so-called Creating Shared Value – CSV model) with the goal of making growth opportunities and environmental, social and economic well-being progress together.

The idea of the “Sustainable Worksite” came from our South African experience. It’s a new model of imagining a construction site that aims to reduce environmental and social impacts considerably through a principle of circular economy that generates social and economic earnings on the ground.

“With the wooden pallets used to transport goods, we’ve built furniture to donate to the local communities. We’re working with local NGOs to fight HIV and to feed the poorest populations.”

No more workplace accidents

The great teamwork we’ve seen so far in South Africa has allowed us to achieve full operation (Commercial Operation Date - COD) early for all 6 projects won in 2014, with more than 4 million work hours without any accidents.

South African best practices will be exported to all our construction sites in order to achieve the goal of “Zero Accidents”, one of the greatest priorities for Enel Green Power and the entire Group. EGP will continue to incentivise reporting of so-called Near Misses and to share a safety culture that will also involve the companies and partners that operate in our worksites.