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Thursday Apr 19, 2012

Darling wind farm gets green light, but farmers are divided

The hills of Darling are set to get a wind farm with 43 turbines between 80m to 100m high.

Called the Rheboksfontein Wind Energy Facility, the wind farm has been given the green light by the Department of Environment.

Most of the turbines will be erected on the farm Rheboksfontein, home to the vines that produce Ormonde wines.

But the approval of the 129MW wind farm appears to have split the community, with some farmers welcoming the project and others saying they will have nothing to do with it.

In one case the difference of opinion is between two brothers on neighbouring farms, one of whom will have nothing to do with the project and the other welcoming the wind farm as a means to earn rent and earn carbon credits.

Theo Basson, owner of the Rheboksfontein farm who is in favour of the project, said yesterday the bulk of the wind turbines would be built on his farm. "When I negotiated with the company that wanted to put it up, I said they had to exclude my highpotential vineyard soils. I've spent a lot of time in Europe marketing my wines and there are lots and lots of wind turbines there, and no one minds.

"The only drawback from wind power is that you can see the towers. Seems to me people don't care about the fact that it is clean energy."

He would get direct benefits from the wind farm as the developer, Moyeng Energy, partly owned by Investec, would pay him rent for the turbines on his land. "I hope to use them as carbon credits in wine production and get zero carbon status for my wine."

His brother, Nikolaas, on neighbouring Alexanderfontein wine farm, is apparently opposed to the project, and would not agree to have the transmission lines over his land. However, he would say only: "Alexanderfontein is my land and I'm not involved in the project at all."

Another farmer, Bodo Gents on the farm Doornfontein, who owns the Weskus Padstal, said he would not allow the transmission lines on his land. "The Darling hills have a historic valley. These turbines will be on my border. We want to put up a game farm here but that is on hold now because of this. It's one thing to put up a wind farm in the middle of the Karoo, but quite another to place it on a major scenic route," Gents said.

Peter Pentz, owner of the historic Groote Post farm, said: "Wind energy is a wonderful thing. I don't see the problem. I see wind farms all over Europe and it's quite magical. Please let it come and save the planet."

Tommie Potgieter, of Moyeng Energy, said the project still had to get several other approvals from other authorities before it could be built.

Asked what he would do if farmers would not give permission for the transmission lines, Potgieter said the question should be directed to Eskom. Eskom had not replied at the time of going to press.

Cape Times

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