Renewable energy generation aims to positively impact the environment and just as importantly local communities, especially through employment and skills transfer. The Eastern Cape is undoubtedly one of the primary regions that has been able to capitalize on the employment opportunities that this new sector offers, especially during the construction phase of the various wind farm projects, which require large numbers of labour from the local communities.
Independent Power Producer, Jeffreys Bay Wind Farm, one of the Eastern Cape’s largest wind farms, currently employs almost 250 people from the various local communities on site, playing a role in upliftment through employment and training. “By employing local residents and providing on-the-job training, which can be applied at other future wind energy production projects planned in the Eastern Cape, this industry is able to make a positive difference in the lives of literally hundreds of families,” said Leo Quinn, Project Manager of Jeffreys Bay Wind Farm.
During August this year, at the peak of construction, there were 602 people working on site, 45% of which were from the local communities in the Kouga Municipality. “As a Council, we’ve been especially grateful for the work and training opportunities from which local residents have benefited. We see the positive impact every day; there is food on the tables of poor families and people are being equipped with skills that will assist them in finding further future employment,” added Kouga Executive Mayor Booi Koerat .
The workforce at Jeffreys Bay Wind Farm is fairly large due to the high level of activity currently on site, which includes the erection of the wind turbines, general construction activities as well as the transportation and off-loading of the turbine components. “We expect to be extremely busy for the next few months with a wide range of construction activities and rely heavily on our local workforce who remain motivated and dedicated to the successful construction of this project,’ commented Quinn.
During the twenty year operation period of the wind farm, the project will create permanent jobs, albeit fewer than during the construction phase. Additional indirect jobs will be created for local manufacturers and suppliers during the lifespan of this the project. “Considering that Jeffreys Bay Wind Farm is not the only Independent Power Producer in the area, any employee skilled in this industry will be employable, at any of the current projects or future projects that are to be constructed in the area,” concluded Quinn.
Jeffreys Bay Wind Farm began erecting the first of its 80m tall turbines in August this year. The project is one of the first wind farms arising from the South African Government’s Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme (REIPP) and is expected to start supplying electricity to the national grid by mid-2014.
When complete the project will be able to provide a significant number of homes with clean, renewable energy by harnessing the wind, and will save millions of litres of water that would otherwise have been consumed in the production of energy.