Eskom’s announcement that Siemens would supply 46 new wind turbines to add to those already creaking and groaning in the Western Cape, indicates that South Africa has learned nothing from the sobering lessons of Europeans and Americans, when they embraced this technology.
Neither, it seems, has the World Bank, the African Development Bank, Agence France (who should know better) nor the Clean Technology Fund (no surprises there).
One supposes that these mainly offshore and hard currency funders couldn’t resist the lure of interest payments on the massive R2.4 billion needed to complete the project.
The World Bank’s interest, if it’s paid in US dollars, will surely mount as the rand continues to slip against the US currency. The same goes for the other offshore funders. Standby taxpayers, when the R2.4bn turns out to be an underestimate.
It is all very exciting for those who believe that the world is being poisoned by carbon dioxide (allegedly causing world temperatures to rise) but who ignore the fact that the theory is far from being a consensus among climatologists. Politicians, of course, embrace it, seeing an opportunity to raise taxes.
Green euphoria aside, consider the record of wind farms elsewhere in the world.
In Denmark, wind farms generate 9 percent of electricity demand only when the wind blows, which is not always when the Danish grid needs it. (Our west coast and east coast may be windy but even in Port Elizabeth the wind doesn’t always blow, and autumn in the Cape is usually calm).
In California, abandoned wind turbines litter the landscape. More than 14 000 wind turbines are junk. Yet, we can hardly wait to emulate such disasters.
In Hawaii the 27-year-old Kamaoa Wind Farm has 100 rusting turbines, abandoned because they are not profitable.
In Britain, Prime Minister David Cameron said: “Wind farms (are) over-subsidised and wasteful of public money.”
Donald Trump, a man who can smell a profit opportunity at 100 metres, told the Scottish Parliament: “Your pristine countryside and coastlines will forever be destroyed and Scotland will go broke (if you build them).”
Seeing as wind turbines are a “green” idea, let’s turn to what these 150m tall monsters do to birds and bats. They kill them: In large numbers.
Half a million birds are sliced and diced every year in the US. Bats too, in equally large numbers. We are supposed not to care because green scientists have calculated that more birds commit suicide against buildings. That’s all right then.
Meanwhile, the bandwagon rolls on.
Good for contractors and funders as wind farms may be, and applauded by environmentalists, as they are, they have hardly any impact on the carbon dioxide emissions the greens are always banging on about. They seem not to have considered the batteries needed to store the electricity when the wind blows or the carbon footprint of each wind turbines’ steel, concrete and copper – a carbon footprint the size of a Yeti’s, as others have noticed.
The carefully-nurtured perception that this is all hi-tech, innovative technology, is bunkum. Wind power is not new. The Dutch drove their empire with windmills hundreds of years ago. Ours are only different because they are huge, use a lot of steel and concrete, are not pretty, and drive domestic animals mad. They prevent restful sleep for any human unfortunate to live nearby.
Indeed, it is more than strange that we are determined to build these inefficient, uneconomic monsters, when everywhere else countries are waking up to the stupidity of the whole idea. When the first private wind generator operating company begs for subsidies, maybe, just maybe, the penny will drop here.
Wind farms are a boondoggle. It’s as simple as that. Some people will get rich for a while and the taxpayers will take yet another hit. Those involved will lose their jobs when the turbines prove to be a mistake, but the politicians and bureaucrats who are pushing for this, will not.
Wind farms will not save the planet. They will not, except in a very small way, and not for long, make electricity when we need it. As long as the batteries last. Yes, we do need more electricity but there are better and cheaper ways of getting it.
A trickle of corporations in South Africa has seen the light. They are installing their own electricity generators – and of the type the Greens should be cheering on.
The much-maligned Anglo Platinum, for example, is planning to use waste heat to drive a turbine that will provide an annual 20 gigawatts. It will not kill birds and will not emit carbon dioxide.
One last thing.”The Western Cape wind farm project is to be called Sere”. It’s apparently the Nama word for “Cool Breeze”.
How sweet, but doesn’t make it less of a mistake.