Water conservation and snake management during wind farm construction, South Africa

Wind energy does not require water for its generation, however, it does need a moderate amount during the construction phase.  Despite it being a relatively negligible amount, the conservation of this rare resource, especially as Kangnas Wind Farm is situated within Namaqualand, is managed by the onsite Environmental Officer.

Due to the importance of water, its conservation and sustainability is Marnu Gouws’s number one priority, “In my opinion, water is one of the most important factors currently on the Kangnas Wind Farm project site, as it’s the life force of the construction processes,” explains Marnu Gouws, Environmental Officer at Kangnas Wind Farm.

Weekly water-usage monitoring is done to ensure that the project remains within the licence stipulations, as provided by the Department of Water and Sanitation. Furthermore, the static water level of the borehole is measured weekly to make sure that the borehole water level isn’t over utilized. Should the level drop, water extraction is halted immediately.

In addition to this, PH and Electric Conductivity tests are done to determine the water quality.  Findings are reported to the Department of Water and Sanitation quarterly, as well as providing water samples to the laboratories, bi-annually.

In addition to managing the conservation of water on site, Marnu is also one of the wind farm’s certified snake handlers.  Together with Hennie Taljaardt, his role is to safely catch and relocate snakes that pose a threat to the construction team.

Individuals working on site are taught to photograph the snake if they are bitten. However, that is not always possible. Thus if someone is bitten, he is to be immediately transported to the closest hospital where he will be monitored by a heath care professional.

Working closely with the local Springbok Hospital, the wind farm has ensured that there is sufficient stock of a generic snake anti-venom, polyvalent, on hand, despite almost 80% of snake bites not requiring anti-venom.

So far, Marnu has relocate a number of Horned Adders to a safe area, with similar vegetation, providing safety for both the snake and construction workers. “The management of all aspects of the environment is a normal part of construction of a wind farm, hence fauna and flora should be protected at all times, so I see the management of snakes as part and parcel of my job”.

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