Friday, 18 December 2009

Sizeable breezes

So I spent yesterday in Langebaan, a quietish little town about 120km out of Cape Town, up the West Coast. The road to Langebaan is long and pretty much runs parallel to the coast, and in true West Coast style, the landscape is covered in rugged fynbos. On the way to Langebaan, it's hard not to notice the four enormous wind turbines that dominate the hillside just outside Darling and so, with time on our hands, a visit to the white monstrosities was in order. It was definitely worth it.

The dirt road leading to the wind turbines is guarded by a locked gate, but thankfully the wind farm care-taker was only too happy to let us in.

The wind turbines look huge from the West Coast road so you can imagine how incredibly massive they really are up close. Each of the four wind turbines stand at 50 metres, towering above like something out of H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds. And the sound the turbines make is nothing short of eerie. But cool, very cool.

What impressed me about the wind farm, other than the sheer size of the turbines, was the incredible alternative to conventional energy generation they afforded. According to the care-taker, one wind turbine has the capacity to power a small town. At the moment, the wind farm is home to only four turbines but you can imagine the limitless potential many more would have. (California's San Gorgonio Pass wind farm boasts over 3 200 wind turbines!!!) It's an incredibly environmentally friendly alternative, although the initial cost is quite hectic. Apparently the four turbines cost around 84 million rand to set up!

Seems the four turbines are part of an experimental project to determine if wind-power really is a viable option. The power generated by the turbines is already being trickled into the main power grid. I'm not sure how long they need to think it over, but considering the mess the planet is in and the dire need to reduce climate change, there's no time to lose.

So next time you're in the area why not pay the wind turbines a visit? It's really interesting for kids and grown-ups alike. And remember, don't be put off by the locked gate - it is open to the public. I think they're just keeping the place safe from vandalism by asking visitors to sign in. I think there may also be wild animals in the area, so perhaps the gate is there to keep them in. Or out. Or whatever.

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