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Joy as wind farm scrapped

Cape Town – A massive wind farm proposal that was to have included as many as 30 turbines each up to 200m high on the mountain slopes of the Overberg in the Western Cape has been scrapped.

The Brakkefontein Wind Energy Project off the R317 between Bonnievale and the N2 near Riviersonderend that was in the early stages of planning, was called off because wind measurements did not give favourable results, because of environmental concerns, and because the government has reduced the “feed-in” tariff that it plans to pay to independent power producers for electricity.

The president of the African Wind Energy Association, Hermann Oelsner, said recently that SA’s initial plan for an “attractive” feed-in tariff of e.125 (about R1.30) a kilowatt hour had been changed into a bidding process aimed at a “low” tariff of e.085/kWh (about R0.88).

The decision to call off the project, announced, was met with elation from opponents.

Ismail Bhorat, managing director of the Melozhori Game Reserve that is an immediate neighbour of the two farms mooted for the wind project, said it was “fantastic news”. Earlier, Bhorat had said he was horrified at the prospect of the wind farm and argued that it would devastate the environment and have a severely adverse effect on the game reserve’s viability and on that of surrounding game farms and eco-tourism businesses.

Developer Terra Power Solutions had argued that the project would help supply the Western Cape with electricity if one of Koeberg nuclear power station’s two generating units went down.

A draft scoping report on the project was published in August. Scoping is the first phase of an environmental impact assessment and is only aimed at identifying potential impacts. If these are deemed likely to be severe, they must be subject to specialised in-depth investigation. This had not yet happened at Brakkefontein.

The project’s environmental consultant Thomas King sent an e-mail. It read: “Over the course of the last few months it has become apparent that the wind resource on the site, which has been subject to an approximately year-long monitoring programme, is not sufficient to justify the project proceeding.

“This is compounded by the fact that the feed-in tariff has substantially decreased from its initial pricing levels, rendering the proposed project financially unviable.

“Coupled with the environmental sensitivities of the site and its surroundings, as well as the numerous conservation initiatives in various stages of development or implementation in the project area that were brought to our attention during the scoping process, the applicant has decided to withdraw the application.

“Please accept this correspondence as the final round of notification for this project.”