One of the two proposed sites for Nelson Mandela Bay’s wind farm project has been scuppered, with the withdrawal of the site owner from the deal following a “hectic” public meeting last week.
Puffer Hartzenberg, owner of Bushy Park Dairy Farm, where the 10 122m-high turbines were to have been erected, said he had taken the decision out of respect for his neighbours.
“We were approached by the consultants about a year ago for permission to do an environmental impact assessment (EIA) on a proposed site for the project, on our farm.
“The indication was that it would not disrupt our dairy operations because it was going to be on the fence-line and between camps.”
His approach was that only once the EIA was approved would he and his team have sat down and discussed how and whether they would make the land available, he said.
“We were receptive to the plan, but we needed to see the EIA and also to gauge what opposition there was to it, if any.”
Last Thursday, as part of the EIA process, a public meeting was hosted by the consultants, SRK, at Riverside Hall in Colleen Glen to discuss a draft environmental impact report (EIR) which has been completed and submitted to the authorities.
The report initially identifies a western corner of Bushy Park Farm, Van Stadens and Driftsands as three possible sites for the project, but then eliminates Driftsands because of “aviation safety concerns” related to the proximity of the flight path and possible interference with navigation systems.
Hartzenberg attended the Colleen Glen meeting – and came away with a very clear view of how his neighbours felt. “It was hectic. There was vehement opposition, even despite the proposed mitigation measures.
“We decided afterwards that if our neighbours felt like this we would not make our land available for the project. We communicated this decision to the consultants earlier this week.”
The proposed wind farm will generate 23MW and includes the possibility of expansion to at least 20 turbines, generating 100MW.
According to the EIR, the project was initiated by the metro in response to the rolling blackouts of 2008. It was also launched in recognition of the greenhouse gases discharged by coal-fired power stations, and their propulsion of climate change.
Wind-mapping was done and the exercise showed “good potential for harvesting wind on parts of the metro’s coastline”.
Although the proposed initial generation is just 20MW of the current 600MW demand, “it will provide valuable information and experience in what is becoming recognised as a viable and more environmentally sensitive alternative.”
Hartzenberg’s assessment of the meeting was echoed by Bushy Park resident Hennie Botes, however, who said “the riot police almost had to be called”.
Part of the consternation was that although the project was initiated a year ago and although notices have apparently been in the media, many residents did not know about it, he said.
“This was the first time the whole bunch of us were there and certainly the first most of us had heard about ‘three possible sites’. Who chose them and what were the criteria?”
Residents now understand that they have until June 10 to submit their concerns, but this was a short period considering how long ago the project was initiated, he argued. They were concerned about the constant “whooshing and whirring” noise of the huge turbine blades and their possible effect on human health, an ailment identified as “wind turbine syndrome”.
According to studies published on the internet, this noise includes a low-frequency component plus the actual sound of the blades sweeping through the air, together creating, apparently “a constellation of symptoms” affecting balance, motion and orientation.
Sleep disturbance, stress and chronic “annoyance” are named as further symptoms. The Japanese government launched a major study into the issue in April.
In Australia, the New South Wales parliament has recommended a “minimum 2km setback” of windfarms from residential areas.
Botes, who owns an international sustainable low-cost housing company, said the quietness of Bushy Park was one of the reasons people had sought to settle there and this factor, together with the prevailing south-westerly wind, would ensure that the sound of the blades carried over long distances.
He said he recognised that there were opposing studies that revealed apparently no ill effects of wind farms. “But that is not the point. While there is international debate on the issue why should we be guineapigs for this potential or actual risk?”
Municipal spokesman Kupido Baron said the metro would be guided by the environment authorities’ verdict on the draft EIR. “It is premature to respond to issues raised pertaining to only one of the sites.”