Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA)

Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) for the identification of suitable corridors/zones for the efficient and effective rollout of wind and solar PV energy in South Africa.

The key objective of the SEA is to enable strategic planning by unlocking geographical areas (REDZs) in which large scale wind and solar PV energy facilities can be developed in a manner that avoids or minimises significant negative impact on the environment while being commercially attractive and yielding the highest possible social and economic benefit to the country – for example through strategic investment to lower the cost and reduce timeframes of grid access.

For more information visit the CSIR REDzs website:     Presentations | Mapping Data | FAQ

STEISA has little faith in the “conditions or guidelines” used during the Strategic Environmental Assessment.

Buffer Distances
Apoint of concern are the buffer distances given in the Identification of Exclusion Areas 1 and Identification of Study Areas 2 divided in Phase 1 ‘Exclusion’ and phase 2 ‘Sensitivity’.

The data in the tables show a lack of knowledge of studies undertaken all over the world showing the negative impact that wind farms have on the environment such as birds and bats populations and nearby residents. Some examples:

  • The by the DEA protected areas such as nature reserves, wilderness areas, world heritage sites, threatened ecosystems, Critical Biodiversity Areas (CBAs) and threatened forests have NO buffer zone.
  • Important biotopes such as coastline & estuaries, rivers, wetlands and strategic water source areas have LITTLE TO NONE buffer zones.
  • Bird flyways have NO buffer zones.
  • Blue Crane colonies and breeding territories are NOT mentioned. Same for the Black Harrier and other vulnerable bird species with high collision and disturbance risk.
  • Bats buffer zones come only into action for colonies bigger than 500 bats, never mind the conservation status of specific species.
  • All type of Buildings will be protected by a 300m buffer zone. This distance is close to insane. Do you wish to have a 140 meter tall (!) wind turbine with a swept area of the size of a rugby field, a generator of 70 tonnes at a height of 100 meters and three 7 ton rotors flying around with a tip speed up to 300kmh right in front of your house, tourist accommodation or game farm lodge?
  • Many studies show the negative health impact of wind turbine noise on residents and communities nearby. Buffer zones from 2 to 10 km are advised.
  • US real estate sale data reveals a range of 25% to approximately 40% of property value loss, with some instances of total loss (abandonment or demolition of homes) within 3 to almost 5 km from wind turbines, according to recent studies and testimony by real estate appraisers from around the world.

Further:

  1. South Africa should FIRST monitor, troubleshoot and learn from the 3,625 MW of renewable energy implementation that includes 1,850 MW of wind energy, before developing so-called REDZs. There are none wind farms of industrial scale operating in SA at the moment and it would be foolish to develop a guideline without any practical on the ground experience.
  2. The European green energy regulation and implementation is changing rapidly since economies cannot afford the high cost related to green energy. It would be of strategic importance for South Africa to understand the reason and to learn from this drastic turn-around strategy instead of continuing on a roadmap that is seriously scrutinized.
  3. Discoveries of natural gas resources in Mozambique, Botswana, Namibia and South Africa will change the energy landscape within 10 years. Natural gas will play a dominant role in future power generation in Southern Africa, and will assist South Africa reducing CO2 emissions significantly, while bringing down the energy cost needed to boost economic growth. A wind farm can be seen as an inefficient, not-wanted, not-needed and too expensive tool to reduce CO2 emissions in the post natural gas era.
  4. Renewable energy (except concentrated solar) cannot replace base load energy and does not contribute to the energy security of South Africa. On the contrary: it introduces more grid complications and expenses, and more difficulties in developing an energy sustainable society.
  5. Experience gained and studies done in Europe and the US show that the use of wind power failed to reduce the carbon emissions in any significant amount. Germany, world’s front runner on green energy, has seen its carbon emissions increasing since its ‘Energiewende’. The reason is because wind energy production always needs back-up power from conventional power plants that are then forced to run in uneconomic mode, emitting more CO2 and other gasses then when run economically. Note that the US has seen CO2 emissions tumble, due to the growing use of natural gas.
  6. Natural gas (and hydro) will outperform renewables economically, quality wise (energy on demand) and in the ability of reducing CO2 emissions.
References
  1. Dea National Strategic Environmental Assessment For The Efficient And Effective Rollout Of Wind And Solar Photovoltaic Energy report: point 4.3 Identification of Exclusion Areas (negative mapping) Department of Environmental Affairs Wind and Solar PV Strategic Environmental Assessment.
  2. Database on 31 July 2013, End of Phase I: Identification of Study Areas report