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Cry, the Beloved Overberg

by Linza De Jager

A proposed wind-farm has the people of Botriver up in arms. Admittedly, only a few people, because only a few people have gone to the trouble to understand how wind-farms impact on a countryside. In this case, just about the entire Langhoogte Valley, which is a birders’ paradise and the breeding ground of our national bird, the blue crane, will be industrialized.

caledon windfarm3

The proposed wind-farm in the Langhoogte Valley will have 44 wind turbines. Each will be a megalith, a monster. Each wind turbine’s supporting pillar will stand 120 m tall, and that is before one takes into account the blades. Translated into ordinary language this means that each wind turbine will be the height of the Carlton Tower! Add to this statistic other biggies. Each blade of a wind turbine will be the length of a rugby field, i.e. 75 m. When moving fast, these blades can reach a speed at the tip of 600 km per hour. Says one of the concerned, Noel Hunt, “The birds won’t even see the tip coming, it is so fast.”

noelhuntHunt is one of the few vocal opponents of the proposed wind-farm. He sketches an idyllic landscape, a birders’ paradise, which is in peril.  A more typical reaction is the well-meaning, “But it is green.”

Not so, say the concerned. The wind-farm will transform the Langhoogte Valley, which spreads over 4 500 hectares. Agricultural and fynbos land will become industrialised. Each wind turbine will have a foundation of 500 m3 of concrete, roads will have to be built to the wind turbines in order to do maintenance, power lines and cabling will have to be laid on.

One of the concerned, Robin Richards, explains why he considers wind-farms not to be green.  A wind turbine at full power emits almost double the amount of carbon dioxide emissions of a full-powered generator.  Says Richards,
“ …in the real-life case of Ireland, it has been found that all the wind turbines installed there have not reduced carbon dioxide emissions and it is now recognised that if they install more wind turbines they will actually increase carbon dioxide emissions. And for this reason they are not a sustainable form of energy unless they are backed up with hydro-electric power.” British Prime Minister David Cameron has said that wind-farms are over-subsidised and that they waste public money

In an article in Engineering News, Cape Town consulting engineer Terry McKenzie Hoy sketched an image of an industrialized wasteland. He spoke about, “thousands of abandoned wind turbines littering the landscape of California’s ‘big three’ energy locations. Over 14,000 turbines are simply abandoned, spinning post-industrial junk which generates nothing but kills birds.”  Add to this bleak picture the following. The wind-farms are said to be only 30% efficient. Wind turbines have a life-span of 12 years before they have to be recommissioned at great cost. The concerned say there will be plentiful financial gain for the farmer on whose land the wind turbines are erected, but little to none for the inhabitants of Botrivier and surrounds.

Caledon Kraanvoels

How big will be the impact on the blue cranes, raptors, owls and bats that call this area adjacent to the Kogelberg biosphere home? In letters which Noel Greeff wrote to premier Helen Zille two years ago (which were not answered) he wrote that “in Denmark alone 30 000 birds are killed annually by the rotating blades.”

Fingers are pointed. Big business and politics are blamed, as is the government’s business dealings with China, where the wind turbines come from. But in the end that does not matter. The victims will be close to home, here in Botriver and surrounds.

by Linza De Jager

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