They introduced the world to “environmentally friendly” energy, but now some of Europe’s “greenest” countries are under pressure to backtrack on wind farms as public anger grows over their impact on the countryside.
Voters are outraged by the unsightly turbines, the loud, low-frequency humming noise that they create and the stroboscopic effects of blades rotating in sunshine. Opponents are dismayed at the proliferation of the turbines in some of the most beautiful areas of the continent. Conservationists complain that hundreds of birds are killed each month by the rotating blades.
Several governments which once embraced the giant windmills as a way to generate “clean” power are showing signs of having second thoughts.
In France, regional councils have started refusing permission for new turbine developments. Denmark, the world leader in wind technology, is preparing to scale down the number of windmills in the countryside, while Dutch government officials fear that public hostility will force them to shelve plans to expand the Netherlands’ wind farms.
The country had hoped to increase onshore windmill capacity to 1500 megawatts – enough energy for 1.5 million homes – by 2010.
A Danish plan to scrap 900 existing turbines and replace them with 175 new windmills has also failed to placate the public.
The debate over wind power is particularly fierce in Germany. The world’s largest wind power producer, with 15,000 turbines, is committed to scrapping all of its nuclear power stations.
Legislation to double the number of wind farms over the next 16 years, approved by the country’s parliament last week, has provoked angry protests.
Vast tracts of agricultural land are blanketed by huge wind turbines, many more than 120 metres tall. German residents whose nights are blighted by flashing red lights mounted on the turbine blades to alert aircraft complain about the so-called “disco effect”.
Resistance is also gathering strength in Britain. Last week Country Life magazine launched a campaign and petition against a relaxation of the planning law proposed by John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister, to encourage the development of land-based wind farms in Britain.
European governments, including Britain, have pushed the development of wind farms in an attempt to increase the proportion of power generated by renewable means. The European Union has set a target – which no country is likely to meet – of 22 per cent by 2010.
The Sunday Telegraph reported last month that proposed Scottish windmills were threatening to push one of Britain’s rarest birds, the golden eagle, into extinction. Other species are also said to be under threat.
There are 1043 turbines on 84 sites throughout Britain, with plans for 959 more to be installed. A spokesman for the Department of Trade and Industry, which oversees energy production, said that Britain would not be deflected from its own aim of producing 10 per cent of power from renewable sources by 2010.
The Telegraph, London
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding