A massive R2,5bn wind turbine farm planned for the Haga-Haga, Morgan Bay and Kei Mouth coastal area is expected to create 300 jobs in construction and 50 permanent jobs later.
But the bigger impact will be that a large amount of clean energy – 150Mw – will be generated in the area will be good for economic development, according to social impact assessment researcher Kerryn Desai.
Some tourism operators in the area have supported the project, but are opposing it being implemented in their area.
They are citing concerns about the impact the 47 130m-high turbines would have on the aesthetic aspect of the area and on their businesses. Some were also concerned about the impact on birds and bats.
The turbines will be spread across 15 farms with landowners earning money from the turbines as a small percentage of sales to the grid, a company source told the Dispatch.
Based on an average household use of 400kWh, the plant should conservatively be able to power around 87,000 households a year. The project has reached the point of a favourable environmental impact assessment report, and now the public has been asked to comment further.
Desai, who conducted the social impact assessment on the wind farm said her conclusion was that the project would advance social, economic and environmental benefits.
It would also assist in transforming the economy, stimulate national growth, create jobs and would have limited negative environmental impacts.
The 600-page EIA report states that the turbines will take up 74.7ha, equal to 74 rugby fields – considerably smaller than the 3,700ha Jeffreys Bay Wind Farm.
According to a published legal notice, the public have been invited to have their voices heard about the plan by submitting their comments to Ntombentsha Nkwentsha at Khuselindalo Environmental Development (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Further arguments in favour pitched to the Dispatch by a company source were:
● There would be “indirect” jobs created in hospitality and tourism;
● The area was consistently windy;
● It was close to the grid;
● There was enough suitable land; and
● Property rates would not be affected. Richard Warren-Smith, owner-manager of the popular Morgan Bay Hotel, said the turbines would have a “very negative” impact on tourism.
“There are a lot of places to go instead. I am all for wind farms but why here? The impact hasn’t been thought through long-term.” He had sent objections to a number of parties.
Haga-Haga holidaymaker Peter Bordenhor said turbines would be “visually intrusive, noisy and not good for wildlife at all. It increases the mortality rate for all the birds”. He said holidaymakers in Kei Mouth did not wish to see the towering vanes dominating the skyline. “People go there to get away from all the technology, not be surrounded by it.”
Doctor Phil Whittington, ornithologist at the East London Museum, said the turbines were definitely a danger to the area’s birds of prey, crown cranes and cape vultures.
A specialist report contained in the EIA, listed the birds in the area with an “unfavourable conservation status”.
These were the black harrier, African marsh harrier, martial eagle, grey crowned crane, southern ground hornbill, yellow-billed stork; Verreauxs’ (fish) eagle, lanner falcon, secretary bird, crowned eagle, Denham’s bustar and the maccoa duck, which is threatened.
An additional specialist report found that six bat species were at risk. “One of the species confirmed in the study area [the Egyptian free-tailed bat – Tadarida aegyptiaca] is considered to have high risk of collision with wind turbines due to the species’ flight behaviour. Five other species have a mediumhigh risk of collision with wind turbines,” read the report.
A source close to, Haga-Haga Wind Farm, who refused to be named, told the Dispatch a thorough Environmental Impact Assessment had been concluded, and the project had been re-assessed and reduced in size from 62 to 47 turbines in order to accommodate various viewpoints across all environmental disciplines.
“The turbine takes up about 1-3% of land on the farm, and farming operations can still go ahead while the turbines are operational, with cattle, sheep and antelope grazing right up to the turbine base.”
Public comment will close on September 28.