Electrical equipment supplier Zest Group, which is part of the Brazilian-based transformer and electrical equipment manufacturer WEG, is positioning itself as a significant player in the South African and African transformer markets.
The transformer market is driven by new power projects, and Zest Group sales and marketing director Gary Daines believes that opportunities are steadily increasing throughout Africa. In South Africa, many power projects are currently centred on State-owned utility Eskom’s activities.
The Zest Group is currently supplying Eskom with WEG transformers, ranging from 2,5 MVA to 160 MVA. The seven-year contract, which was awarded in 2007, is part of the electricity utility’s infrastructure upgrade programme to boost its capacity to meet the growing local demand for power, Daines tells Engineering News.
“The transformers are custom-made, using the latest design and manufacturing technologies in a facility which is ISO 9001 accredited,” he says.
The WEG range of transformers has a life cycle of in excess of 25 years and is able to withstand aggressive environmental conditions, owing to design and engineering characteristics.
Zest is responsible for the supply, distribution, installation and commissioning of the transformers across South Africa. To date, more than 250 transformers have been supplied to Eskom.
This has opened up many doors for the company, Daines says. Owing to the stringent specifications set by Eskom, Zest is able to install these transformers throughout other African countries, as these look up to Eskom in terms of specification guidance.
An external consultant reviewed Eskom’s specifications and a team from Eskom vetted the final designs at the WEG factory, in Brazil.
WEG’s record of on time delivery in combination with their recently expanded manufacturing capacity ensures that they meet the time schedule of tight project programmes as is demanded in the global market today, says Daines.
The group has seen an increased number of enquiries following the contract with Eskom, particularly mining companies, besides other companies, from Mozambique, Kenya, Tanzania, Angola, Zambia and Namibia.
“Through the successful completion of the Lubumbashi project in DRC, Zest has become increasingly well recognised in the African market,” he says. “This project comprised the delivery and installation of two of the largest WEG transformers supplied to date into Africa,” he says.
These 150 MVA, 120 kV to 220 kV WEG transformers were bought by copper producer Anvil Mining in late 2007, in support of improving the town of Lubumbashi’s power infrastructure. The transformers were commissioned in September 2008.
“Zest’s ability to provide a total solution secured the order. The ability to engineer a product for the harsh African operating environment and to be able to meet tight delivery schedules is critical,” says Daines.
Logistical challenges are part of the equation when delivering products to sites in Africa. The transformers, with tanks weighing 90 t each, required shipping on a special vessel to accommodate the mass of the main tanks. The components and accessories were housed in six containers that travelled with the road convoy.
WEG transformers are manufactured at WEG Transformadores, in southern Brazil.
A technology transfer agreement between WEG and Spanish-based wind turbine manufacturer M. Torres Olvega Industrial (MTOI) has resulted in the establishment of a joint venture (JV), in March, for the manufacturing of wind turbines, Daines reports.
The JV will undertake the manufacturing, assembly, installation and commercialisation of wind turbines, as well as the operation, commissioning and maintenance services, which will be provided in Brazil.
Initially, the wind turbines will be manufactured at WEG Energy’s manufacturing facility in Jaraguá do Sul, with the first order scheduled to be delivered later this year.
This agreement is targeted at the Brazilian wind energy generation sector, but projects outside of Brazil will be analysed on a case-by-case basis.
However, Daines notes that this JV could be beneficial to South Africa in the future, as opportunities are increasing for wind turbine power generation.
“There is a global focus on developing clean energy solutions, and WEG has, over the past few years, been researching and developing many forms of technology to target areas such as solar, wind turbines and hydropower, besides others,” he says.
Daines concludes that there are many opportunities for Zest to introduce WEG’s technology into the South African and African markets in the future to increase the continent’s power capacity.