GOOD fortune is set to blow into two threadbare Tsitsikamma schools today, courtesy of the first wholly South African-owned wind energy project.
Launched last year, the Tsitsikamma Community Wind Farm Project (TCWFP) is owned by Pretoria-based mining and commodities giant Exxaro, the local Mfengu community and Watt Energy of Port Elizabeth. It will benefit Amafengu and Clarkson primary schools in Clarkson.
The project was initiated by Port Elizabeth businessman Mcebisi Msizi, who grew up in the Tsitsikamma Mfengu community before it was forcibly removed to Ciskei in 1977.
Years later, while in exile in Denmark, Msizi came into contact with global wind energy leaders and he was reminded of the gales which used to howl through his childhood village of Emafengwini.
He returned to the new South Africa bristling with contacts and bursting with passion for wind energy and the opportunities it presented for development here.
He co-founded Watt Energy in 2008 and the company launched the Tsitsikamma project in December last year on Wittekleibosch, a 7000ha farm bought in 1994 by the government to resettle the displaced Mfengu. Today these returnees – including Msizi’s father Mlungisi and mother Thembeka – number 200 families.
The aim is that the community will benefit from a 15% share of the estimated R14-million annual revenue which will come from selling the electricity generated to Eskom, at the agreed buy-back rate of R1,25 a kilowatt. The electricity will be transferred to Eskom’s power grid through a new substation to be constructed nearby.
Msizi said at the launch that the project would transform the lives of the dirt-poor community by, among other things, bringing jobs – building roads, digging and laying the turbine foundations and maintaining the turbines once they were erected.
Watt Energy chief executive Mark Scheepers, a young entrepreneur who joined Msizi after a chance meeting at a February 2008 Rotary function, said yesterday the project was steaming ahead.
The environmental impact assessment had been completed and was under consideration.
The company was particularly happy with the public participation, where not one objection had been received.
Exxaro is considering the long-term possibility of a wind farm generating as much as 400kW. But TCWFP’s initial phase envisages 20 turbines generating 40kW.
-The Weekend Post, 2010/08/30