Renewable energy is a much-needed addition to South Africa’s power sources. The country’s reliance on coal is both unsustainable and environmentally damaging, and it is vital to include alternatives in the energy arsenal. It is also vital to ensure that those alternatives are, in their turn, sustainable and not environmentally damaging. It goes without saying that they should be effective generators of energy.
The National Energy Regulator (NERSA) has identified solar, wind, biomass, biogas, hydro and landfill gas as sources of renewable energy. Wind and solar projects are proposed for the Greater St Francis environs and the St Francis Kromme Enviro-Trust, as the community watchdog, scrutinises each application in detail to evaluate its potential for both good and harm to the area. Regular reports are published in local media and will be included on the website.
WIND ENERGY PROJECTS
Ten wind farms were proposed for this district, with an eleventh just across the Van Stadens River in the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality. Only nine remain of the ten local wind farm proposals, as the Deep River project has been withdrawn.
The Jeffreys Bay Wind Farm went into operation in March 2014, a couple of months earlier than scheduled owing to an urgent request from Eskom, who tried – and failed – to avert load shedding. This wind farm has 60 turbines and a capacity of 138MW. The wind farm is monitoring bird and bat presence on the site, and has readily agreed to the St Francis Bird Club undertaking parallel monitoring of bird species.
The Kouga Wind Farm, between St Francis Bay and Oyster Bay, went into operation in March 2015. This wind farm is also monitoring bird and bat presence on the site, a condition of its environmental authorisation. The resident Denham’s Bustard population is being closely observed to monitor any changes in numbers and behaviour.
The Tsitsikamma Community Wind Farm, near Clarkson, comprises 31 turbines which are due to go into operation in March 2016.
The last of the four projects licensed so far, the Gibson Bay Wind Farm, is situated west of Oyster Bay. This 37 turbine wind farm is under construction and is expected to go into operation in March 2017.
The RES Oyster Bay wind farm was selected as a preferred bidder in the 2014 bidding round of the REIPPP programme and is awaiting financial closure in March 2016. This 46 turbine project is immediately adjacent to the Kouga Wind Farm, effectively doubling the size of the area under turbines.
What is the Kromme Enviro-Trust Approach?
The St Francis Kromme Enviro-Trust continues to monitor each of the wind farms in terms of their commitments to environmental responsibility, with a high degree of acceptance and co-operation from the operators. In fact several of the wind farms have committed to funding a conservation initiative in the district in conjunction with the Kromme Enviro-Trust, and we are in discussion with those who are not yet committed to the project.
The St Francis Kromme Enviro-Trust has entered into an association with five of the wind farm operators to invest in conservation in the area by way of biodiversity stewardship. A Stewardship Facilitator has been recruited to identify places of valuable biodiversity and to explore their possible protection with landowners: the facilitator took up his position in November 2015 and all costs are being under-written by the wind farms. This initiative is setting a precedent for renewable energy companies nationally and it is anticipated that the outcome will be the preservation and protection of a significant number of the many threatened species of this part of the world.
This is an unusual instance of oppositional parties joining forces to establish a constructive and very exciting project. We are proud to be a part of it.
For further information, contact Maggie Langlands on 042-294-1075 or 082-458-8063
Greater Kromme Stewardship
In 2015 the Kromme Enviro-Trust entered into a formally-constituted association with the wind farm developers, known as the Greater Kromme Stewardship (GKS), and the GKS has contracted with a reputable environmental NGO, Conservation Outcomes, to employ and manage the facilitator, Wenzel Coetzer. Wenzel is making great headway with land owners throughout the district to promote and support conservation, with the objective of formally protecting as much of our valuable biodiversity as possible. He is working in conjunction with Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism, who have been closely involved in the setting up of the GKS and the establishment of the initiative.