By Jeffrey Barbee for the #keepitintheground campaign.
The howling wind drives the turbines, their blades bent back from the force as they spin in the evening light and send electricity to local villages in South Africa’s Eastern Cape.
High up on the top of the turbine, local resident Lungela Vongu, dressed in a safety harness and hard hat leans far out over the 100 meter drop to check that the wind speed detector is working properly. “This wind farm is bringing a lot more jobs into this community for the people, without it there is no future here,” he says.
The Cookhouse wind farm is the biggest wind system built in Africa, with 66 turbines generating 138MW of clean power. It started feeding the grid at the end of 2014 and it is far from unique.
Although still heavily dependent on fossil fuels, South Africa has been quietly creating one of the world’s most progressive alternative energy plans. Solar, biomass and wind energy systems are popping up all over the country and feeding clean energy into the strained electrical grid.
“It is set to completely transform these deep rural communities in terms of healthcare, education, job creation and a raft of other interventions. All this while putting green electricity on the grid at affordable prices,” said Johan van den Berg, director of the South African Wind Energy Association.
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Jeffrey Barbee is a photojournalist and award-winning film producer and director. He works for Global Post, presents the US national TV show Earth Focus for LinkTV and writes and photographs for the Guardian UK. His work also appears in the New York Times, the BBC, NOS Tv Holland, Smithsonian Magazine, RTL News, PBS, CBS, Al Jazeera, Time Magazine, Newsweek, Vanity Fair and others.
His 2012 film Creating a Climate For Change won best environmental film at the film festival of Colorado.
He is the Director of The High Cost Of Cheap Gas, a current feature film exposing the global gas industry.
He is the Director of Alliance Earth, a worldwide not-for-profit environmental and scientific reporting initiative and is a board member of the Mezimbite Forest Centre.