ORANJESTAD — The most noticeable effects of constructing the ten windmills at Urirama will be changes of the landscape and the noise from turbines. This is the conclusion of the first version of the social and ecological effect report (MER) for the area, which report the Amigoe has in their possession. Next week the company Windpark Vader Piet and WEB will organize a hearing to allow residents and others to have a say.According to director Henk Hutting of Windpark Vader Piet, this version of the MER will be presented at the hearing Tuesday evening at seven in the innovation center Dr. Edward Cheung. Spokesperson Asja Dongen of WEB, who is also involved with the project, states advertisements on the hearing will inform the public tomorrow.
Both promise that a report will be made on the hearing, which report will be included in the report to the government so the latter – according to Hutting – is informed on the citizens’ ‘objections’. The government is to take a decision once the MER is definite. If the latter is positive, the windmill company will become the long leaseholder of the government land at Urirama and be given the permit. “In that case, the construction could begin in October or November”, said Hutting.
Neighbors have collected 600 signatures against the construction. They not only fear inconvenience but also a substantial devaluation of their houses. In the meantime, they’ve consulted a lawyer and will not hesitate to submit a huge insurance claim if the windmills are constructed anyway. From the adapted pictures of the windmills that were distributed this week it seems like the windmills will be built very close to the chapel of Alto Vista. The windmills are to be placed at a distance of 850 meters from civilization. However, Hutting said the pictures are not realistic and will produce ‘visualizations’ that give a reliable picture next week.
Hardly any risks
Nevertheless, the MER written by the Dutch energy consultant Kema mentions that the current image of an empty, desolate coast will change with the arrival of the windmills. Fact remains that it’s not a protected area. The shortest distance between the windmills and houses should be 850 meters. Based on the model that Kema uses to calculate the noise of the turbines in the surrounding, the noise of the turbines in the adjacent residential area wouldn’t exceed 42 decibel. That’s well below the 47 decibel standard, according to the consultancy.
Possible consequences for the local fauna have also been researched. The most relevant animals are bats and birds.
Hardly any bats were seen during the research conducted last month by expert ecologists. There’re no plants and too few insects in the area to attract bats as regards food and there aren’t any caves in the area where they can breed. Therefore, the risk for bats is nil, Kema concluded. If due to less wind there are more insects in September/October and these attract more bats (which the ecologists don’t expect) then Vader Pieter Beheer is prepared to adjust the operational activities during calm periods. The report indicates that the presence of windmills could indeed form a threat for birds, but the latter is minimal because not many birds were seen throughout the year.
The choice for the location of the windmill park is a compromise between several factors, according to the report. For instance, one is to consider avoiding residential areas and Parke Nacional Arikok, as many turbines as possible must be placed together on the land and the windmills must be placed at a vast distance from the windmill park in Vader Piet. This is necessary to avoid sudden production loss in case heavy weather approaches the island. These requirements have led to a location to the north, at Urirama. For that matter, opponents of the windmills say this is nonsense. A neighbor said that research by the University of Leuven shows that if windmills for example in Oostende will stop, then so will those in Egmond aan Zee at a distance of 200 kilometers. “Aruba is small; if the wind drops, it’s calm on the entire island. Everyone knows that.” Opponents endorse one point in the MER though, namely that the landscape will never be the same again.