A proposed wind farm near Wolseley, capable of supplying enough electricity for 70 percent of Witzenberg Municipality’s population, has been given the green light by environmental authorities.
Yesterday, the Western Cape Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning approved the power plant’s environmental impact assessment, saying it was satisfied it would not conflict with environmental legislation, and that any negative impact could be reduced to acceptable levels.
SAGIT Energy Ventures director Mich Nieuwoudt was delighted, but said they still had several hoops to jump through.
One was whether his bid would be selected by the national Department of Energy in the government’s next round of renewable energy bids at the end of August.
The 90MW farm of 30 turbines, each between 90m and 110m high, is proposed for the Breede River Valley between Wolseley and Worcester. Planning began in 2008. If it goes ahead it will save more than 300 000 tons of climate-changing carbon dioxide that a coal-fired power station would generate over the wind farm’s 20-year lifespan.
The Western Cape gets most of its electricity from Mpumalanga, about 1 600km away. A significant amount is lost in transmission.
“That is inefficient and means a huge loss of electricity,” Nieuwoudt said.
“As a renewable energy developer I don’t see my role (as acting) as a wind power evangelist, but we’re short of electricity and if the mix of electricity generation can be improved by wind generation that is a good thing.”
Nieuwoudt said working from Eskom’s figures on the amount of electricity a person used, the wind farm could provide enough power for 63 000 people when running at its peak. The power generated would be fed into the national grid.
The wind farm site has several segments of vegetation that are threatened as so much has been destroyed, mainly by agriculture. However, the way the turbines are laid out, 29 will avoid the sensitive vegetation.
A study found that the turbines were not on any known major bird flight paths. While the turbines would have an impact on bats, none of them would be built in the areas rated as having a high or moderate impact on bats.
The wind farm towers will be built by a company in the Eastern Cape, the only one in the country that makes them.
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