Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy deserves credit for a number of courageous policy decisions during his presidency. Leading NATO into and through Libya, challenging the West to get serious about Iran’s opaque nuclear program, and staying the course in Afghanistan despite the war’s unpopularity all come to mind.
But building windmills off the Normandy coast doesn’t fall into that category. This is a bad idea.
First, there’s the historical importance of the waters that lap onto Normandy – waters that delivered the largest amphibious-landing force in history on June 6, 1944. If plans go forward – tenders for the multi-billion-euro project are being awarded this year – a bed of wind turbines rising 525 feet high will be planted off what was known as “Juno Beach” on D-Day. Some windmills could be up and running by 2015.
French government officials tell Britain’s Telegraph newspaper the giant windmills will be so far out to sea they will appear like “matchsticks” from the beaches. But veterans groups on both sides of the Atlantic aren’t buying that defence.
“D-Day is in our collective memory,” according to Gerard Lecornu, president of the Port Winston Churchill Association of Arromanches. “To touch this is a very grave attack on that memory.”
The planned Normandy-area wind farm is part of a larger effort to plant hundreds of wind turbines along France’s Atlantic and Mediterranean coastlines by 2020.
The French government believes the wind-farm project will generate the electricity equivalent of two nuclear power plants.
Best of all, say the project’s proponents, it’s all clean and green.
That brings us to a second problem with France’s wind-farm plans: Modern-day windmills are anything but environmentally friendly.
Robert Bryce, editor of the Energy Tribune, reports that wind turbines in the United States kill between 75,000 and 275,000 birds annually.
“Such numbers earned wind-power generators the moniker ‘Cuisinarts of the air,’ ” added Diane Katz, a former Fraser Institute colleague.
She notes that in Canada, “the wind-power industry enjoys a degree of political favour that would make most other energy executives green with envy.”
Indeed, as Gerry Angevine and his team in the Fraser Institute’s Global Resource Centre detail in a recent report, policymakers in Canada and the U.S. are employing renewable portfolio standards (RPS) to “require electric-power utilities to use renewable energy sources such as wind for generating a certain percentage of their overall electricity supplies.”
Moreover, offshore wind-power generation is more costly and generally cannot compete with electric-generation technologies that rely on non-renewable energy sources such as natural gas and uranium.
In short, a better path – for France, Canada and the United States – would be to allow market forces to determine the most cost-effective and efficient way to deliver energy.
Of course, if France wants to try to power its cities with windmills, it has every right to do so.
But given what Canadians and Americans did for France 68 Junes ago, perhaps the new French government could find someplace other than the Normandy coastline to carry out its wind-farm experiment.