Red Cap Energy (Pty) Ltd proposed to develop the Impofu wind farm projects near Oyster Bay and install a grid line to evacuate power generated by the facilities. Zutari was appointed in 2017 to undertake environmental impact assessments (EIAs) for the three Impofu wind farms, as well as the basic assessment (BA) process for a 120 km-long 132 kV overhead power line to Port Elizabeth.
The work included an upfront intensive multidisciplinary screening exercise to optimise the layout of the wind farms and the grid line alignment. The aim was to avoid all environmentally and socially sensitive areas in order to reduce impacts and unforeseen risks for the statutory approvals processes.
Holistic approach to address challenges
The process of working within a multidisciplinary team was challenging, but ultimately the project was optimised by having to consider the views of more than 10 environmental and social specialists, as well as engineers. Ongoing bird and bat monitoring also resulted in unexpected findings, demanding an iterative design approach. Locating the Impofu wind farms within a cluster of existing wind farms was a challenge, and the potential cumulative environmental and social impacts could have been significant, therefore requiring a robust impact assessment methodology.
The robust and iterative impact assessment process also allowed for the input and concerns raised by the well-established interest groups that were present in the area. A unique stakeholder engagement strategy implemented by Zutari ensured that this was successfully achieved, commencing at a very early stage of the project, using multiple platforms and opportunities for engagement.
The robust and iterative impact assessment process also allowed for the input and concerns raised by the well-established interest groups that were present in the area.
Advanced screening process
The screening process for the wind farms and grid connection corridor was based on sensitivity mapping to identify environmental No-Go areas, which were overlaid with technical spatial information. For the grid corridor, this mapping guided the process of identification of a number of environmentally and socio-economically favourable alignment alternatives. These were taken through a multi-criteria decision-making (MCDM) process, allowing the most preferable option to be identified using a rigorous quantitative process based on pairwise comparisons. The mapping, along with this MCDM tool, saved time and cost by early exclusion of unfeasible alternatives.
Zutari was particularly happy about being involved from the earliest possible stage, as it enabled the project team to guide the planning and implementation of the project towards a sustainable outcome that integrated social, economic and environmental factors for the benefit of present and future generations.
*The Aurecon Africa business has been officially renamed Zutari as at 21 July 2020. Zutari acquired Aurecon Middle East on 20 November 2020.