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Environmental activists threaten court action over planned wind farm in the Cape West Coast

Environmental activists and property owners along the Cape West Coast are threatening court action over the planned Boulders Wind Farm.

Government approved in principle, the 45-turbine wind farm project near Paternoster, St Helena Bay and Vredenburg.

It says the generation of 144 MW of electricity will result in significant socio-economic benefits at national, local and community level.

However, those opposed to the project are concerned about its impact on the environment, tourism and job creation in the West Coast region.

Renowned for its natural beauty and unspoiled vistas, Paternoster has become a popular holiday destination with the added bonus of job opportunities.

“We have got certain things that attract people here and these are the exact things they want to take away. With the wind farm, the one leg of our nature position gets immediately diluted and it’s also in a very prominent position that it’s in your face. The current one is subtle, it sits to the side so it doesn’t really bother you. It comes right into your face, affects the energy of the place and will affect the views from a lot of hotels, accommodation rooms in Paternoster and in that way affect the entities,” says Tourism owner Deon Brand.

Industry role-players say the visual impact of the planned Boulders Wind Farm will stretch for tens of kilometres along the pristine West Coast.

Environmental activists have questioned the selection of an environmentally sensitive area.

“The site is also situated in the middle, right between two internationally recognised birding areas, the Langebaan lagoon and the Lower Berg River Estuary with birds. In a survey done on the previous wind farm, 30 546 birds flew through that farm in 6 days or through this peninsula. Why would we jeopardise that, why would we jeopardise endangered species that are being killed by wind farms. When we put one wind farm next to another, we produce not two plus two but two to the power of two the impact becomes exponential. It rises not in a straight line graph, the impact on bats is absolutely unequivocal, the bat report states that there will be local extinction and zero chance of recovery, extinction,” says Peter Pickford, Wildlife Photographer & Environmental Author.

The department’s environmental authorisation however has a number of conditions, including additional research on the impact on birdlife.

“The chances of the negative impacts on tourism and property values to be realised, however, are small given the research findings of international studies. Due to concerns raised by the visual, the turbine layout was changed. Some of the wind turbines were relocated, to avoid visual concerns. The wind farm is not permanent, and the turbines and other superstructure will be removed on decommissioning of the wind farm,” says Albi Modis from the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries.

Opposers say they will appeal against the granting of environmental authorisation and if needs be, take the matter to court.

An existing wind farm in the region, West Coast One, generates 94 megawatts.