MARIGOT–A decision on whether the controversial wind turbine project for Red Rock in French Cul-de-Sac will go ahead or not is expected to be handed down by the Guadeloupe court in September, veterinary surgeon Eric Poulin, one of the main opponents to the project, disclosed Thursday.
Poulin, artist Antoine Chapon, and architect Philippe Leger succeeded in securing court injunctions on behalf of residents to stall the project which was granted a building permit on July 20, 2006, and has since been subjected to public enquiry.
They claim the project is highly unsuitable due to its proximity to resident housing and nearby Soualiga College.
According to Poulin, the Radisson Hotel in Anse Marcel has joined in the chorus of disapproval, citing concerns guests will be disturbed by the sight and sound of the turbines, as well as concern about use of the main road to Anse Marcel during the installation phase.
Opponents to wind turbines complain of the whooshing sound of rotating blades, vibrations, effects on health, and potential for serious accidents, not to mention the impact on the environment.
Land owners, the Laurence family, are also in a dilemma. They stand to gain by selling the land to Marju, but are concerned much that their prime building land would be devalued because of the turbines and people not wanting to build.
French company Marju SAS plans to erect three giant 91-metre high 800 kw wind turbines on the summit of Red Rock. Three anemometer masts measuring wind speed have already been placed there. Philippe Leger, who was invited to be a consultant on the project but declined, has dismissed the company as being “inexperienced” in wind turbine installation based on his assessment of some of the company’s proposals.
Poulin said an alternative location for the turbines at the landfill in Grand Cayes has been proposed and, while this is welcomed by residents because the location is further away from housing, he doubted whether Marju would accept it, as they would have to start from scratch and reapply for permits.
The turbines will be placed 500 metres away from the nearest resident housing areas in Cul-de-Sac. Marju insists this is a safe distance away and within regulations. Poulin and Chapon argue they are too close given margins of error in how the distance is measured.
“I cannot say the company is breaking any rules, but everywhere in Europe now engineers recommend wind turbines not be erected less than 1,500 metres from the first house,” notes Poulin. “This is not an environmental project for St. Martin. It is a financial project. To me, it makes more sense to concentrate on solar energy.”
Considerable infrastructure is needed for the turbines, particularly when blades and motors have to be dismantled and stored in the event of a hurricane threat. A road to access the turbines and transport equipment also has to be created.
“This could be the first wind turbine project installed in a hurricane belt. We just don’t know how it is going to work,” worries Poulin. “The company says it takes 7 hours to dismantle a turbine but do they mean 7 hours for one, or 7 hours for all three, and how far in advance will they take them down?”
Poulin, however, is confident of winning the court case based on the strength of arguments against the project.
Marju claims the turbines will provide 10 per cent of St. Martin’s electricity needs. However, this has been disputed by EDF who in a 2005 study said the turbines would only produce 3.9 per cent of needs.
Under the terms of a 15-year contract, EDF will be obliged to purchase the electricity from Marju and resell it to the consumer.
The St. Martin-based partner in the project for Marju SAS , Philippe Laude, declined to comment on the project yesterday.
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