West Coast targeted for wind farms

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<em>Wind power ‒ soon cheaper <br />than Eskom electricity<br /> in SA</em>” height=”240″ src=”http://www.esi-africa.com/system/files?file=images/Green%20-%20Pic%201_0.jpg” width=”320″></span></div>
<div><span>ABOUT 11 percent of the West Coast region, totalling close to 3 600km2, is classed as “preferred” or “highly preferred” for the development of wind farms in a new provincial strategic assessment that is close to being finalised.</span></div>
<div><span>This area includes a number of “quite large” pockets of land of up to 487km2, each big enough for a number of wind farms.</span></div>
<div><span>However, it does not include the crucial element – the expected wind reserve. This is partly because wind data sets are mostly commercially owned, and because of disagreement about which are the most accurate.</span></div>
<div><span>This was what Helen Davies, recently appointed director of climate change in the provincial Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning, told the third Wind Power Africa conference at the Cape Town International Convention Centre yesterday.</span></div>
<div><span>Davies explained that developing renewable energy sources like wind power was a key component of the department’s mandate to address issues of climate change.</span></div>
<div><span>Between 2003 and 2006, the department developed a regional assessment method to identify areas suitable for wind farms. While developers had been encouraged to use this methodology, the approach had still left considerable uncertainly for developers and review officials.</span></div>
<div><span>So last year the department had introduced a regional assessment methodology to strategically assess and identify sites from an environmental and planning perspective.</span></div>
<div><span>The assessment overlaid five GIS (geographical information system) maps of various environmental and planning constraints and opportunities to identify preferred areas and areas that might be more sensitive to wind farm developments, Davies said.</span></div>
<div><span>However, there were also likely to be “site-specific” concerns such as heritage value, which would still have to assessed, Davies added. “So this doesn’t replace an EIA (environmental impact assessment).”</span></div>
<div><span>The department was in the process of finalising the assessment and officials should be trained in its use by the end of May or early June, she said.</span></div>
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<div><span>Also at the conference yesterday, Kyle Denning, co-founder of Michigan-based Sustainable Energy Financing, and managing director of its Kenyan-based subsidiary Viability Africa, said that if African renewable energy projects like wind farms didn’t start delivering financial returns soon, investors would withdraw from the continent.</span></div>
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<div><span>“If things don’t start to happen soon, it’s going to go backwards. Firms are going to leave, and from an international perspective you don’t want that,” he said.</span></div>
<div><span>Denning identified a number of challenges, including the tariffs that governments would pay private energy producers to stimulate this fledgling industry, known as Refit (renewable energy feed-in tariffs). He pointed out that Kenya was similar to South Africa in terms of its renewable energy status, but that its Refit programme was already in place.</span></div>
<div><span>The government, through the National Energy Regulator of South Africa, has been strongly criticised for the slow pace of introducing its Refit programme.</span></div>
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<div><span>john.yeld@inl.co.za</span></div>
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