GLOBAL wind and solar power developer Mainstream Renewable Power turned the sod on a 138MW wind energy plant in Jeffreys Bay, Eastern Cape, on Monday, group CE Eddie O’Connor said.

This is the latest start among a number of renewable energy projects approved in the first "window" of the Department of Energy’s Independent Power Producer procurement programme, which is expected to supply South Africa with 3,725MW of power by 2016.

Last week, SunEdison South Africa broke ground on its first South African project, a 28MW solar plant in Limpopo. This R1.2bn Soutpan project, in the Blouberg municipal area, is to be followed by a 30MW, R1.4bn project — Witkop, near Polokwane.

In terms of the department’s integrated resource plan for electricity, renewable energy will account for 42% of new electricity capacity by 2030.

Mainstream South Africa has three projects, scheduled to be fully operational by the middle of next year: the Jeffreys Bay wind farm, a 50MW solar photovoltaic farm at De Aar, in the Northern Cape and a 50MW solar photovoltaic farm near Kimberley, he said.

World Wide Fund for Nature South Africa Living Planet Unit chief Saliem Fakir said it was "very exciting" that the projects were now at construction phase.

"We need it (energy from renewable resources)," he said.

Eskom generates about 95% of South Africa’s electricity, most of it via coal-fired power stations.

South Africa is one of the world’s top 15 emitters of greenhouse gases. It is the largest greenhouse gas emitter in Africa, and has conditionally pledged to reduce its emissions "trajectory" by 34% in 2020 and 42% by 2025.

When generating, the Jeffreys Bay Wind Farm is expected to supply enough clean, renewable electricity to power more than 200,000 homes and eliminate more than 300,000 tons of carbon emissions each year.

Mainstream South Africa is a joint venture between Mainstream Renewable Power and local South African developer Genesis Eco-Energy. The Mainstream parent company is the largest independent offshore investor in Europe, Mr O’Connor said.