September 2022, SAWEA. Speaking to Wentzel Coetzer, Biodiversity Stewardship Facilitator for the Greater Kromme Stewardship (GKS) and Maggie Langlands, from the Kromme Enviro-Trust, it is clear that the synergy...

September 2022, SAWEA.

Speaking to Wentzel Coetzer, Biodiversity Stewardship Facilitator for the Greater Kromme Stewardship (GKS) and Maggie Langlands, from the Kromme Enviro-Trust, it is clear that the synergy between wind power production and the preservation of local biodiversity is paramount.

1. What is biodiversity and why is it so important?

Biodiversity is the variety and abundance of different forms of life that make up our natural world, and it includes all forms of life (e.g., animals, plants, fungi, microorganisms, etc.). Each of these species and organisms work together in ecosystems, like an intricate web, to maintain balance and support life. Biodiversity supports everything in nature that we need to survive, such as food, clean water, medicine, and shelter. Biodiversity is thus the cornerstone of a healthy and functional natural environment, and it is essential for human wellbeing.

2. What is the role of the Greater Kromme Stewardship (GKS) and who are its members?

The GKS Association is made up of a collective of wind farms, including the Jeffreys Bay Wind Farm (Globeleq Generation Limited), Gibson Bay Wind Farm and Oyster Bay Wind Farm (Enel Green Power) and Tsitsikamma Community Wind Farm (Cennergi), along with an environmental NGO called Kromme Enviro-Trust.

The primary aim of the GKS initiative is to secure important biodiversity and habitats in the greater Kouga-Koukamma region as a means to, firstly, compensate for the impacts of wind energy generation on the environment and, secondly, to maintain a healthy and functional natural environment that will make a positive contribution to the wellbeing of the local communities in the region.

The GKS initiative also aims to create awareness of the natural environment and biodiversity of the region through environmental education.

3. What are some of the projects and what footprint is covered?

Securing new Protected Areas (e.g., Nature Reserves) on private and communal land through the nationally recognised Biodiversity Stewardship Programme.

Projects to improve the management and protection of a number of areas of state-owned land with critically important biodiversity.

Babize-bonke Environmental Education project, which aims to build a greater conservation awareness in the region, primarily amongst youth.

Identify potential green economy socio-economic development and/or enterprise development opportunities in the region for the GKS members to invest in.

4. For wind farms established decades ago, what can they now implement?

There’s no reason why wind farms established “decades” ago are any different to those established today. There have only been wind farms in SA for one decade so far, and one of the leaders into the field was the Jeffreys Bay Wind Farm. Tsitsikamma Community Wind Farm was not far behind, and Gibson Bay was also an early entrant.

While we cannot comment on wind farms outside of our area it really depends on their impacts, the environment in which they operate, the opportunities in the landscape, etc.

What we can suggest though is that they firstly, do on-site mitigation to try and minimise their environmental impacts wherever possible and, secondly, they could implement specific conservation interventions in their broader surrounding landscape to compensate and offset their specific environmental impacts.

Any wind farm can implement the same kind of initiative, whether they started operating in 2011 or in 2022. It just requires a genuine commitment to ESG responsibility.

5. What are some of the achievements that GKS can share?

Since its inception six years ago, the Greater Kromme Stewardship initiative has been widely recognised for securing more priority land for conservation in the Kouga region than any other independent conservation body in the last fifty years.

Eight sites have been finalised as protected areas and seventeen sites (an area of over 6 500 hectares) have been identified for possible protection. Three new nature reserves have been declared, and one new protected environment.

The GKS internship programme has so far trained two young natural science graduates and is actively recruiting a third.

Schools in the area have also benefitted from exciting education events, both in the classroom and in the field.