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Protestors target turbine test center

Attempts to clear a forest to make way for a wind turbine test centre in northern Jutland were abandoned on Thursday after interference by protesters.

Nine police officers accompanied the Danish Nature Agency’s tree felling machines into the Østersild dune plantation but were stopped when approximately 30 protesters sat down in their path.

The protests meant police had to call off the operation to clear the first 12 of 1,500 hectares of forest to be felled to test seven, 187-metre tall turbines.

Tom Vilmer, spokesperson for the protesters, told Politiken newspaper that they will continue the peaceful protests to stop the destruction of the forested area.

“We are taking it one day at a time. The forest covers a large area and we have lots of people placed around it which the police have to pass through,” Vilmer said, adding that while he did not know how many people were in the forest, their numbers are made up of young and old locals as well as foreign environmental activists.

Vilmer also told Politiken that while there is no established strategy to handle the next police action, he could report that the activists are keeping each other updated through mobile phones and other communications about what is happening in the forest.

The wind turbine test centre is an initiative between Vestas, Siemens and the Risø National Laboratory for Sustainable Energy at the Technical University of Denmark (Risø DTU).

According to Peter Hjuler Jensen, deputy manager for the wind energy department at Risø DTU, the delays caused by the protests may have grave consequences for Denmark’s standing in the global wind energy department.

“If the plan is put off even longer, we won’t be able to live up to our obligations,” Jensen told Politiken. “In the global competitive market it is important to be able to fulfill your obligations. It may sound abstract, but another delay could affect Denmark’s ability to compete in the wind industry.”

If the Danish Nature Agency has not completed the initial work by March 31 of next year, Vestas and Siemens can pull out of the project.

The Østerild dune plantation, near the town of Thy in north-western Jutland, was established in 1889 to counter the creeping sand dunes on the west coast and is an important breeding ground for many bird species.

Critics of the test centre’s placement have argued the wind turbines should be placed at sea where they are intended to be installed once they are in production.

But Vestas has stated that it is important that wind turbines are easily accessible from their research facility in Aarhus.

“It is important that we are geographically close, so that we have a development team beside the site. It is just practical to have those developing the turbines be physically close to the turbines,” Finn Strøm Madsen from Vestas told the Danish Wind Industry Association.