Setting up a wind farm in South Africa requires more than just a large piece of land and an occasional bout of wind. Very specific environmental criteria must be met in order to ensure that a wind farm will be viable and lawful. In fact, and most specifically, even the wind itself must meet certain criteria if the wind farm is to be a success.
The checklist below outlines the factors that should be considered before setting up a wind farm in South Africa. Browse the list to discover whether your proposed site would be suitable for setting up a wind project:
- Type and quality of wind – Obviously, a certain amount of wind is required to set up a wind farm in South Africa. But the wind itself should meet specific criteria in order to be considered suitable and sufficient for powering a wind farm – particularly one of a large scale. The five criteria that wind needs to meet are: an ongoing and even flow of wind; high average wind speeds; one-directional winds; laminar flow; air flow that hits the turbines perpendicularly.
The speed of the wind is particularly important. A wind site where the average speed of wind is 40km/hr may generate twice as much power as a site where the average speed of wind is 30km/hr.
- Height of the wind farm – The higher the site of the farm, the better: Ideally, wind turbines should be constructed at least nine meters above any obstacles, and there should be at least 90 meters of clear area surrounding the turbines.
- Environmental impacts – In South Africa, all proposed commercial wind farms are compelled to undergo an environmental impact assessment (EIA) before they can be granted permission to proceed. This is because the government needs to ensure that the wind farm will not have any unnecessary negative impacts on the environment and surrounding community.
While it is accepted that there may be rare incidences of creature mortalities in the operation of a wind farm (for example, birds flying into the blades of wind turbines – though this is a highly infrequent occurrence), it has to be shown that no undue harm will be brought upon the surrounding fauna and flora as a result of the wind farm’s activities.
- Noise – Modern wind turbines are not considered to be particularly noisy. However, those living in close proximity to a wind farm may experience the “whooshing” sound of the blades. During the assessment stage of setting up a wind farm, individuals are allowed to object to the construction of the wind farm based on potential noise pollution. For this reason, it’s advisable to choose an area that is as far as possible from any residences.
- Aesthetics – Although it may seem a minor concern, bear in mind that communities, as well as any parties affected by the construction of a wind farm, can object to the farm for aesthetic reasons. Thus, it’s advisable to ensure that the wind turbines blend into the natural environment as much as possible – or better yet, select an area that doesn’t enjoy great amounts of sightseeing traffic. Although wind turbines are not particularly unattractive, they will alter the appearance of the landscape, and thus their aesthetic impact must be taken into account.