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More hot air on wind farms

What was planned by Red Cap Kouga Wind Company as an informal platform for discussion for concerned and affected parties in St Francis Bay last week, failed to generate warmth among most of the St Francis Bay residents attending the meeting.

The meeting had been called by Red Cap and their partners and to engage with the community now the formal Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was over, giving everyone the opportunity to speak freely.

As the meeting opened, St Francis Bay resident John Hammond stood up to read a statement on behalf of the St Francis Wind Action Group (Swag).

According to the statement members of Swag, acting on legal advice, would not be attending the meeting as they had lodged their intention to appeal against the proposal to construct the proposed wind farm on Oshbosch Farm across the Kromme River from St Francis Bay.

Although most of those at the meeting declared they had no problem with the principles behind wind farms, St Francis residents felt the EIA process had ignored the impact such wind-farm developments would have on the visually aesthetic quality of St Francis Bay and the access corridor to the town.

St Francis Bay resident Bruce Brooker summed up the mood of residents by commenting: “We feel 50 years of effort to maintain this high visual standard has been ignored and along with it the considerable investment that has been made in developing this unique village.

“The EIA report stated simply there will be a visual impact and suggests we must just get used to it over time.”

Red Cap managing director Mark Tanton’s response was the visual impact could not be mitigated. However the effect on property values was debatable and this was more likely attributable to the current difficult economic climate and the negative impact of the Thyspunt nuclear debate.

Some of the residents attending the meeting were not opposed to the Red Cap proposal. Members of the local farming community present were largely supportive, congratulating Red Cap and its partners on the initiative.

The Industrial Development Corporation is assisting Red Cap and its partners to deliver what is described as meaningful socio-economic development through the establishment of a broad-based empowerment trust.

The focus of the trust will be to address the needs of the community with a view to improving the quality of life through job-creation, local economic development, capacity-building and skills transfer.

Red Cap declares it is not only represented by those with depth of experience and expertise in the local energy sector, but also by partners who have been directly involved in wind energy development in other parts of the world. They include Afri-Coast Engineers, Eurocape Renewables, Evolution One and Standard Bank.

The company plans to develop a wind farm of up to 121 wind-turbines near Oyster Bay, St Francis Bay and Paradise Beach.

The central cluster of 43 turbines will be developed first at Oyster Bay over a three-year period. The western cluster with 53 turbines will be near the mouth of the Tsitsikama River. The eastern cluster which lies between St Francis Bay and Paradise Beach on the north side of the Kromme River will have 27 turbines.