The construction of the R550-million Van Stadens Wind Farm project is scheduled to begin next month, despite continued opposition from Blue Horizon Bay residents who say there was no fair public participation process.
Located about 20km outside Port Elizabeth, the nine- turbine wind farm by MetroWind is expected to start commercial operation in September next year, and will generate about 80000MW hours of clean electricity per annum.
The amount of electricity produced by the turbines will be enough to power 6000 homes in the metro, 300 of which will be the surrounding community who will be receiving electricity for the first time.
Basil Read Energy director Ian Curry, whose firm was awarded the construction contract, said although there was continued opposition, the project had received the green light from Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa.
“We understand that there are concerns but we think these are more about the fear of the unknown. We have conducted a series of studies, from flora and avifauna to visual studies and noise,” he said.
Curry was speaking at a media briefing yesterday.
Three residents of Blue Horizon Bay who had attended the briefing were asked to leave during the question and answer section of the event because they had not been invited.
Dr Henk Botha, Peet Vermaak and Bob Bell said they represented approximately 400 residents of the posh suburb who were opposed to the development because it would have environmental and visual impacts on the area as well as contribute to noise levels.
They said although the minister had dismissed their appeal because it was submitted late, they were considering taking the case to the high court to stop the construction.
“We are not opposed to renewable energy – in fact we support it. All we are saying is that this development should be moved to a more industrial area like at Coega because this location is a residential and agricultural location,” Bell said.
The three said they did not intend to disrupt the meeting but rather to collect more information about the project.
Curry said five sites were initially identified but the other four locations – Bushy Park, Lovemore Heights, Driftsands and Island Forest – were eliminated because they were environmentally sensitive or would interfere with radar systems.
“There is the opinion that wind farms have a negative environmental impact but this is not the case. There will be no visual impact because the wind farm will be constructed behind the suburb of Blue Horizon Bay so there will not be any interrupted views.
“According to noise level guidelines there must be a minimum of 300m from the closest turbine to the closest dwelling but our closest turbine is 750m from the closest dwelling so this is more than twice the distance. The ambient noise such as the wind and sea will be louder,” Curry said.
However, Vermaak said the turbines would spoil the area’s mountain views as he did not only look at the sea views.
Curry said the nine turbines would be erected over an area of 100ha and be spaced 650m apart. Bird and bat migratory studies were also conducted.
He said 120 direct jobs would be created during the construction phase of the project, with nine permanent jobs thereafter.
Also the bulk of the R550-million investment would be spent with South African companies, many of them located in the metro.
“The Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality has set itself a target of getting 10% of its electricity generated by renewable energy and this wind farm will allow it to meet 50% of this target,” Curry said.
He said the project would bring with it substantial social, environmental and economic benefits.