All new renewable developments need environmental authorization from the Department of Environmental Affairs & Development Planning. The EIA & BA is South Africa’s key regulatory instrument to mitigate and/or manage the impacts of new developments and activities that are considered to potentially impact on the right to an environment that is not harmful to health and well-being.

The feasibility process can take up to 24 months. A three-month site establishment phase is followed by up to 21 months of feasibility studies. Environmental studies & approvals as well as the wind measurement campaign are some of the longer processes that require a minimum of twelve months.

During the feasibility phase, minimal activity takes place on the project site. There will be one measurement mast installed per wind power project of up to 140 m that will be installed by a professional team. The measurement mast is a lattice structure with a very small footprint and is supported by guy wires in three ways. There will be an access road required should existing roads not be utilized. The project team usually works with the landowners to construct roads that would benefit the landowner.

During the feasibility phase, there will be minimal traffic on the project site. The installation of the met mast takes approximately one month and is usually the first step in the feasibility process. There will be environmental specialists performing various studies on the project site at different intervals over one year that would require access to the land. Landowners will be informed well in advance of any such visits as well as the activities that would take place.

Through the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REIPPPP), which is aligned with the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), the Department of Energy facilitates the procurement of renewable energy. Independent Power Producers (IPPs) submit their project proposals into a competitive bidding process. If a bid is successful the IPP enters into a power purchasing agreement with the state-owned power utility, Eskom.

Electricity regulations have recently been amended to allow municipalities to develop or buy power which offers an alternative off-taker for new renewable energy projects.

No, landowners will not be able to get electricity from the wind farm.

Wind energy farms take up approximately 4% of the total project area. Access roads of approximately 3.5-5m wide are required for turbine transport and maintenance. Turbines are usually strung together in groups of 5 sharing one access road.

Transmission cables that connect the turbines to the onsite substation are installed underground along the access roads. The footprint of each turbine is approximately 14m2.

Farming activities can commence as normal around the turbines during the operational phase.

The number of turbines on each farm portion will be determined during the feasibility phase. Various factors will affect turbine placements such as environmental factors, wind measurement data, and civil aviation approval to name a few.

The turbines do have a distinct sound like almost anything that moves. Noise can vary depending on the terrain, the position of the listener, and the speed and direction of the wind. The impact of the noise is assessed during the feasibility phase and impacts will be mitigated.

A measurement mast will be installed on the proposed project site. A minimum of 12 months of measurement data is required for the project to considered bankable. P50 and P90 probability figures are calculated to determine annual production values. These values provide relative certainty that a wind project will be successful. Developers will not take the risk of developing projects that they are not certain will be financially successful.

An on-site substation will step up the voltage to 132kV which will then be evacuated to the national grid via overhead transmission lines to the nearest Eskom substation.

The developer will work with the landowners to avoid areas that the landowner wishes not to develop on.

The Option Agreement is an exclusive and irrevocable agreement between a grantor and grantee to lease land from it and encumber the Land with all the Servitudes required for access to and interconnection of the Power Generating Infrastructure for electricity transmission purposes. The agreement also records certain restrictive conditions as referred to in the Lease Agreement over those portions of the land that fall outside of the lease area.

The option agreement allows the developer access to the land to install wind energy measurement devices, such as meteorological towers, perform feasibility studies such as environmental studies and ultimately allows the developer to compete in a bidding round during the option period.

There can be various factors outside of the developers’ control that could potentially cause unforeseen delays in the project timeline. To protect the developer, enough time is necessary to develop the project as well as compete in one or more bidding windows. A period of seven years is considered a reasonable time and is consistent with industry standards.

Construction can begin from the date that financial closure is reached, and typically lasts about two years for a 140MW wind farm.

During the feasibility phase, there will be minimal activity on the site. Landowners will be informed well in advance of any activities that will take place on their land. During the construction phase, there will be a larger volume of contractors on the site as can be expected. During the operational phase, there will be very minimal activity on site. There will be security cameras installed across the site which will monitor the site 24 hours a day. This is usually a positive thing for the landowners as it improves the security on their land.

There is usually a site manager with a small specialized team that is based in the region who are responsible for the day-to-day management of the site and regular maintenance. Other than that, there isn’t any other traffic on the site.

The project owners are responsible for the decommissioning of the turbines and infrastructure should it not be agreed to renew or extend the operation of the plant.

The operational phase of these projects is typically between 20-25 years.

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