WIND POWER AND THE AGRI SECTOR HAVE A SYMBIOTIC RELATIONSHIP
The gazetted amendments to the Electricity Regulations on New Generation Capacity, as announced in September 2020, has paved the way for municipalities, in good financial standing, to be able to either develop or obtain their own power-generation capacity from Independent Power Producers (IPPs). This offers another avenue of potential income for South African farmers, who have tacks of land that can accommodate either wind or solar power.
“This decentralized way of procuring power is a step closure to a broader energy transition that the country needs to increase its power generation, which will sustain local economic activity and can further support the farming community,” says Ntombifuthi Ntuli, CEO of the South African Wind Energy Association (SAWEA).
Opportunities for South African farmers already exist as 1000s of hectares of rural farmland is already being leased by utility-scale wind farms, and solar projects, across the country. This model offers farmer’s an additional income stream, whilst they can continue to farm the land, especially in the case of sheep and cattle farming, on wind farm sites.
The money earned by farmers, from leasing their land to wind producers, is a stable source of income and can help protect the farm from yield fluctuations or poor crop yields during drought years. It can also allow them to reinvest in their farming business by purchasing new equipment or making other improvements.
Additionally, where turbines and related infrastructure are installed, farming can continue nearly right to the base of the turbine. According to industry studies, typical wind farms leave 98% of land undisturbed, meaning it’s free for other uses. Plus, the construction process often includes updating or building new roads, which can improve farming operations.
Furthermore, numerous wind farms support small agricultural enterprises, many of them emerging farmers, based in their beneficiary communities, located within a 50km radius of the power plants.
Shaw’s Pass Emerging Farmers, in the Hemel and Aarde Valley, is an example of this, as the co-op of 30 emerging farmers, situated close to Klipheuwel Wind Farm, is receiving funding to help develop them into a sustainable farming enterprise that can raise close to 1 000 pigs for the region’s meat market.
The wind farm has funded this, as part of its Enterprise Development Programme, with support including a repository of animal feed, comprising of 30 tonnes of pig feed, stored in a central depot. This provides a store that the farmers purchase required feed from, thereby generating funds that are used to build suitable piggery infrastructure. This sustainable model is already underway and is proving a successful way of benefiting this co-op as a whole.
Similarly, this wind farm is also supporting emerging famer’s Gougakhoi Cattle and Crop Co-Op, in Riviersonderend, who receive funding and business support to help improve the standard of their herd, thereby driving income for the co-op to become more sustainable and thereby stimulating local job creation.
“Wind technology is similar to the philosophy behind Sustainable Agriculture, namely, to harvest resources without jeopardising future needs; protecting biodiversity; developing communities as well as Social and Economic Equity,” explains Brad Ker-Fox, who manages a number of sustainable agricultural projects for beneficiary communities, on behalf of Jeffreys Bay Wind Farm.
As a wind farm, that harnesses the abundant renewable resources, it stands to reason that sustainable farming development programmes are supported and funded as part of Economic Development initiatives.
A different type of symbiosis exists between wind farms in the Northern Cape, who have been supporting farmers across the Karoo by providing drought relief in the form of fodder to feed their cattle, following the massive decrease in rainfall that has plagued the region. Specifically, Kangnas Wind Farm reached out to the Boesmanland Farmers Union comprising 34 members, including emerging farmers, all of whom have been struggling for five consecutive long years, following the normal rainfall having dramatically decreased from around 100mm to only 30mm per year. These farmers are all in the Springbok area, including Gamoep and Pofadder, all the way up to the Orange River.