Wind farms face 'propaganda'

2012-05-30 09:30
Hermann Oelsner has rejected criticism of wind farms as propaganda. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

Hermann Oelsner has rejected criticism of wind farms as propaganda. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

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Cape Town - There is a propaganda campaign against wind farms that seeks to portray the facilities as dangerous and a noise nuisance, an industry insider claimed.

"There is such a propaganda against wind farms, it's unbelievable. If you go into Google and you type 'wind turbines killing birds', you get more than 30 000 to 40 000 entries there," Hermann Oelsner, president of Africa Wind Energy Association told News24.

Media around the world have run several stories on the danger to birds posed by wind farm installations.

The Washington Post reported in August 2011 that the US Fish and Wildlife Service was investigating the death of golden eagles near the Pine Tree Wind Farm Project.

The Journal of Applied Ecology concluded in a 2004 study that wind farms represented a risk to bird mortality, but said the "effects are still poorly quantified".


"We have been running the Darling wind farm now for the fourth year; there wasn't a single dead bird there. And if you look at the Eskom plant in Klipheuwel, they had one or two sparrows or something, but they were small," said Oelsner.

While some birds are killed near wind turbines, the deaths represent a small number of birds killed by man-made encroachment of the environment.

"Wind turbines represent an insignificant fraction of the total number of bird deaths caused by man-made objects or activities (eg building structures, transmission lines, and keeping domestic cats)," said the Centre of Sustainable Energy in Bristol in its publication, Common Concerns About Wind Power.

Oelsner said that there was little evidence for mass bird deaths because of the Darling wind farm in the Western Cape.

"If I drive in the morning on the roads past Darling wind farm, I find killed birds on the road every day. If you want to ban the wind farms, then we can't have any more cats in the world. We must kill all the cats because they kill most of the birds and they kill them very brutally."

Wind represents a cleaner energy supply for SA as the country braces for electrical prices increases and Oelsner said that because the technology was mature, speedy delivery of power could be guaranteed.

"Wind is the only one you can put a lot of megawatts down in a very short time. Government has realised it and that's why the bid process was introduced and we will be digging foundations by the end of the year, or early next year [2013] and a lot of turbines will go up," he said.

Different approach

Most wind installations are large scale and the Eskom research project at Klipheuwel has turbines with towers as high as a 20-storey building and a blade length of 33m.

Local company Windwatts Wind Turbines has taken a different approach to wind generation with smaller wind and solar stacks that are designed to supply domestic electricity.

The company won a global award for the best renewable energy system for low cost housing.

"We can sort out the energy crisis in the rural areas. With between 1MW to 5MW, you could power up to 5 000 homes," Windwatts Turbines managing director Sean van Horsten told News24 recently.

One of the benefits of renewable energy is that it reduces reliance on fossil fuels to generate electricity.

"And the fact of the matter is that we need to lessen our carbon footprint. We can't forever go on coal: We need to, at some stage, make a decision - and the decision has been made as far as I'm concerned from a knowledge perspective - we need to lessen our carbon footprint," said Ivan Jones, Wind Power Energy Association vice-president.

- Follow Duncan on Twitter

Read more on:    climate change  |  renewable energy

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