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Lawmaker leads charge against turbines

TAIPEI, Taiwan – Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Lin Shu-fen (林淑芬) led protesters from Yuanli Village (苑裡鎮), Miaoli with a petition against the InfraVest Wind Power Group (英華威公司) during a press conference yesterday, calling for the Group’s wind turbine projects to be relocated due to safety concerns.

The German wind power company is responsible for half of the wind turbines located on the island’s West Coast, having built approximately 170 turbines from Miaoli to Chunghua. In an environmental review released in 2005, the company promised local residents that it would keep the distance between windmills and village houses at three to five times the length of each turbine’s blades.

Contrary to its promise, nine out of the 14 wind turbines built on the coast of Yuanli were located too near the village, and complaints from the villagers have included insomnia and severe headaches from the turbines’ noise. The complaints went unnoticed by InfraVest, said Lin, though they had allegedly accused the residents of opposing wind power plants and supporting nuclear power with higher risks.

Many residents of Yuanli began a hunger strike on April 7 that lasted over 10 days, said Lin. They had formed an anti-windmill group that called on InfraVest to stop any further construction and to relocate the current wind turbines to a safer distance.

“It is not that we don’t care about the environment. We just think the wind turbines can be both eco-friendly and safe,” said protester Chen Ching-mei.

Another reason for the turbines’ relocation is due to possible turbine collapses, said a green energy engineer Wang Wei-min (王偉民), adding that the turbines are less than 250 meters away from Yuanli when they should be at least 800 meters away. “What if there is an explosion? One blade is large enough to crush a lot of lives,” Wang said.

Discovery Chanel footage of wind turbines collapsing in Denmark was shown at the press conference, reminding viewers of similar accidents that have occurred in Taiwan, Japan and Scotland. “Despite all post-construction inspections, accidents may happen. This reinforces the need for an appropriate distance between the turbines and local housing,” said Lin. The debris from the Denmark wind turbine had been found in areas over 800 meters from its original site, which meant the safety distance should be at least 800 meters, Lin pointed out.

“If InfraVest continues to neglect the danger its wind turbines pose to the local residents, they should get out of Taiwan,” said Lin, stating that the promotion of green energy should be a common priority of the government and all societies, with an actual plan that is safe yet eco-friendly.