Friday, July 20, 2012
‘Wind Electricity’ Generation Project for Luderitz
By: Wanja Njuguna
AS the cost of living rises, the recent increase in electricity tariffs might be nipped in the bud when the long awaited wind electricity energy generation development at Luderitz starts its operations in 2013.
The project, which is approximately15,99 square km, is situated about 12km south of Lüderitz and about eight km south of the coastal town’s airport, between the Sperrgebiet diamond protection area and Sperrgebiet National Park. The project, set to construct 18 to 22 wind turbines at a cost of $150 million is capable of producing 44 megawatts of electricity which it hopes to sell to NamPower. Currently, 50 per cent of Namibian electricity is imported and the project hopes to fill part of that void. The wind project is the brain child of Diaz Wind Park company, which consists of United Africa Group (Namibia), Sojitz Corporation (Japan), and Korea Midland Power Co., Ltd. (South Korea). The Namibian company owns 60 per cent of the project, while the foreign partners own 20 per cent each. The Environ Dynamics has since the previous report on the same project, been appointed to up-date the original Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) due to significant changes in the nature and size of the project as well as change in ownership scope, so as to be in line with Namibian environmental regulations. Of importance to the project is that fresh public participation in accordance with National Expert Advisory Panel (NEAP) was sought. The authority focal meetings and the public consultation meetings were held during the week of 15 September last year in Windhoek and Lüderitz. The public had been informed through adverts in the media to respond. During the WindTalks workshop held in Windhoek in November last year, the alternative to using a free resource such as wind, to fill Namibia’s energy deficit was discussed. The workshop, spearheaded by Vestas, a Danish wind company and Polytechnic of Namibia’s Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency Institute (REEEI), emphasised the need for a different source of domestic energy all of which is currently produced from one of Namibia’s scarcest and therefore, insecure source, water, while the rest of the energy is imported from South Africa and elsewhere. The workshop attendants were informed that currently, all of the imported energy is produced by burning non-renewable fossil fuels such as coal, oil or gas. In contrast, wind energy production requires almost nil use of water whereas producing one Mw per hour with coal requires 2 000 litres of water. Vestas said that research had shown that “future power outages could be as high as 10 per cent of the total demand”, based on Namibia’s growth which, if it resulted in a “one 24 hour black out” every month, this would translate into a reduction the country’s GDP by four per cent. Besides job creation and energy costs stability that the use of wind energy would create, Namibia’s energy burden could benefit as wind energy is a “free resource” that does not produce green house gases. This will create a self-sufficiency in energy production, as there would not be a shortfall of wind due to availability of numerous wind hotspots that have already been identified. Many of these are situated along the windy Atlantic coast which provides “strong and consistent winds”. The project which will take 18 months to complete is expected to have a lifespan of 22 years. As with most of these kinds of projects, effects on the environment as well as animals and other living organisms is important. For example, a current concern is the influence on birds and the Brown Hyena as well as waste disposal. On waste disposal, the project intends to install storm water and oily water drains at all new installations. Drains will discharge into the oily water separator. A waste disposal company will collect all waste water and/or sludge and clean the pits and dispose the waste at the Walvis Bay Municipality hazardous disposal site. According to the report, the total area cleared at each Wind Turbine Generator (WTG) will therefore be 2 650 square metres. For the internal roads, a minimum area of 3,5ha will have to be cleared. For the substation and support facility will require an area of about 100m by 100m. This will require an area of 1ha must be cleared. In total an estimated 10ha must be cleared for the project activities. The report further says that the project facilitators are aware that just like any development of this magnitude, the environment will be vulnerable and measures to reduce the risks involved will be dealt with. For example, geologically, the soils are susceptible to erosion and very shallow and therefore, alternative foundation techniques will be required to avoid blasting. The impact expected will be physical disturbance of soil during transport and construction activities. It is also expected that there will be proliferation of trucks and erosion of structures. On hydrology, it is expected that the sandy inlays will act as very effective traps for any surface transport of contaminants such as service fluids. On vegetation, the Lüderitz Peninsula dwarf shrubland is known to be extremely sensitive and limited. The consultants therefore recommend that any form of development in this habitat should be avoided and any site activities must therefore be managed through a Vegetation Management Plan, which forms an integral part of the Environmental Management Plan (EMP). Another concern is that the new north western boundaries of the site interfere significantly with the coastal flight paths. Another impact expected from this will be noise disturbance, movement and temporary occupation of an otherwise undisturbed habitat. There will also be loss of habitat, including foraging, roosting and breeding habitat of the area occupied by the completed structure. Collision of priority species, including globally threatened birds and/or migrating birds with wind turbine blades might occur. The impact on the near threatened brown hyena is a major concern. The effect of WTG noise and increased traffic on the movement and territoriality of the brown hyena is not clear. On archaeology, the study area is considered to have both historic and prehistoric archaeological significance as a landscape, not individual sites. However, it is important to note that the Diaz Wind Park company is keen to ensure that the EMP is streamlined on all issues of concern as they work towards the start of the project next year. EMP aims to provide a high level management tool for the overall environmental management of the project in principle as well as direct mitigation measures related to the impacts expected.