The article appearing under the headline ‘CSIR is stumbling boldly where angels fear to tread’ in Terry Mackenzie-Hoy’s column, Electrically Speaking, in the Engineering News of January 27, refers.
The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) welcomes public comments on its reports.
With regard to the environmental-impact assessment (EIA) report in question (regarding wind energy projects proposed near Albertinia, Heidelberg, Swellendam and Mossel Bay, in the Western Cape), we released a draft scoping report for comment in mid-2010. Thereafter, the draft EIA report was released for comment in March or April 2011. We would have welcomed comments from Mackenzie-Hoy on these draft reports, which would have enabled us to respond as part of the EIA process. The final EIA report was submitted to government in 2011. An EIA, through rigorous research and assessments, enables informed deci- sion-making by government and other stakeholders to assist in steering the country on a pathway towards sustainable development.
Mackenzie-Hoy makes two key points in his critique. Firstly, in his view, there is no need for wind energy projects in the Western Cape and he disagrees with the ‘need for the project’, as summarised bythe CSIR in the EIA report. But he should bear in mind that it is not the CSIR stating that there is a need for wind energy facilities. We have extracted statements from government departments and other sources indicating that there is a need for these projects in South Africa. The national government has clearly stated that there is a need to promote wind energy in South Africa, including the Western Cape. For example, the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) for South Africa was released by government in 2010 and proposes the development of 17 800 MW of renewable- energy capacity by 2030, including wind, solar and other sources. The IRP sets the target of 3 725 MW of renewable energy to be produced by independent power producers by 2016. The Western Cape government has also adopted clear targets for renewable energy. If Mackenzie-Hoy disagrees with the need for wind energy projects in the West- ern Cape, he would be better served by raising this matter with the relevant government departments.
Secondly, Mackenzie-Hoy critiques the visual impact of the turbines and their height. There is a significant visual impact that is clearly assessed in the EIA report as one of the impacts of the project. However, he has made an error in his height calculation for the turbines. The maximum height of the turbine is not 212 m above ground. If the hub height is a maximum of 100 m above ground level and the blade diameter is a maximum of 112 m, then the maximum height is 100 m plus 56 m, which is 156 m.
The CSIR also recommended in the EIA report that the Albertinia wind project not be authorised by the national Department of Environmental Affairs because of ecological and visual impacts. Mackenzie-Hoy chooses to ignore this recommendation.
In summary, promotion of the renew- able-energy sector in South Africa is an innovative initiative of national govern- ment. By being involved in the environmental planning and assessment for such projects, the CSIR is making it possible for informed decisions to be made.
Manager, CSIR Environmental Services Group
Tel: 27-21-888 2486