Activists ready to joust at windmills

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Local environmental groups and outdoor enthusiasts are reeling after the state energy directorate NVE presented new and widespread plans for more windmill developments. Three of them are in Trøndelag, and opponents claim they would ruin more scenic landscapes.

Trøndelag already has several large windmill projects, like this one at Hitra. One local group is strongly protesting more. PHOTO: Statkraft

“We’re still sitting here in a state of shock,” Jonny Remmereit of the hiking and nature association Trondhjems Turistforening (TT) told state broadcaster NRK. “This is terrible for Trøndelag, We hadn’t expected this even in our wildest imagination.”

TT is the local chapter of the national trekking association DNT (Den Norske Turistforening), representing southern areas of Trøndelag. The region already has Norway’s largest concentration of wind power production and windmills that many view as unsightly, noisy and as posing a threat to birds and reindeer grazing.

“We have 20 windmill facilities on Hitra, Frøya and the Fosen peninsula,” Remmereit told NRK. If all the windmills that NVE is now proposing are erected, “we won’t have hardly any untouched nature left.”

13 areas ‘best-suited’
Waterways and energy directorate NVE (Norges vassdrags- og energidirektoratet) was asked by the state Oil and Energy Ministry to determine which areas of Norway were best-suited for more wind power production. The goal is to propel the so-called “green shift” by developing and using more renewable energy sources.

Wind power, however, has split Norway’s environmental activists. Climate advocates often support plans for more windmills as an important source of renewable energy, while environmental preservationists oppose the often huge windmills towering over the landscape. Wind power itself can be positive, concede critics, but they don’t like how it’s generated.

Many agree, however, that it would be naive not to believe that Norway’s wind power resources will continue to be tapped in the future. NVE, acting on the government’s request, evaluated 43 areas around Norway for more wind power production.

Of those, they now have proposed 13 regions extending from Finnmark in the north to Agder in the south as “best-suited” for windmill development. Only Stølsheimen in Sogn og Fjordane and Hordaland have been exempted, while other areas of sensitive and largely untouched outdoor space are included. Hence the protests from Trøndelag, which is targeted for more large-scale clusters of windmills.

More protests came at a national level: “It’s disappointing that NVE hasn’t stressed that we should protect all untouched nature from windmill expansion,” Per Hanasand, leader of the national board for DNT. “Such areas  have huge natural value and diverse wildlife, and offer opportunities for enjoyment of unique areas that should not be built upon.”

Even the Greens Party (MDG), known for its active efforts to stop climate change, reacted negatively to NVE’s targeted areas. “In order to carry out the green shift we need some wind power installations on land, but we can not accept destruction of the nature like NVE’s plans entail,” stated the Green’s national spokesperson Arild Hermstad.  His party is advocating more offshore construction of windmills.

The areas proposed for more windmills include West Finnmark, Sunnmøre and Nordfjord, Vest-Agder and Rogaland, Aust-Agder, the border area among Buskerud, Telemark and Vestfold counties, Østfold north of Halden and east of Sarpsborg and Northern Hedmark in an area encompassing Tynset, Tolga, Os and Rendalen.

It remains highly questionable whether all areas will be built out, or even how much actual power would be produced. NVE’s plan was handed over to Oil & Energy Minister Kjell-Børge Freiberg, who will now take it under advisement while claiming that ongoing development of windmills will be carried out “in a balanced manner.” Berglund