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Sweden welcomes army of wind turbines

AFP · 13 Jun 2010, 11:11

Published: 13 Jun 2010 11:11 GMT+02:00

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While community opposition often blocks or hampers new wind power projects, Sweden has managed to break ground for Europe's largest wind park counting more than 1,000 giant turbines, with barely a whisper of protest.

The secret? The giant Markbygden wind farm -- covering more than 500 square kilometres, or the equivalent of five times the size of Paris -- is being built in a virtually uninhabited, desolate stretch of Sweden's great north.

"If I were to try the same thing in Germany, it would take me 20 years to get everyone's agreement," Wolfgang Kropp, the German head of the project, told AFP.

Standing on the shores of the Baltic Sea at the Piteå harbour near the wind park site, he added: "For the same area, you would have 10,000 land owners. Here there are three.

"That's why we came here to Sweden in search of a good location," he said.

"In the south of the country, it is very difficult. There are farms, and vacation homes. Here in the north, there is no one," he said.

Kropp's company Svevind, a client of German wind power giant Enercon, is leading the construction of the park, with 1,101 wind turbines scheduled to be built by 2022.

They should then produce energy equivalent to the production of two nuclear reactors.

The site stretches across a vast area covered with dense pine forests interspersed with scattered villages of just a handful of brightly painted wooden houses.

They are surrounded by silence broken only by the occasional car or a fighter jet from a neighbouring base screaming past on a training mission.

The giant wind park is widely popular here.

The main forestry, paper and metals industries in the region are facing new environmental and climate regulations requiring them to significantly shrink their carbon footprints by 2020.

That is something a change in energy dependence should help with.

"We want to turn this region into a new centre of green energy production," said Robert Bergman of Solander Science Park, a scientific laboratory in Piteå studying among other things the potential of wood and paper-based fuels.

The wind park project "is an obvious asset," he added.

It is also viewed by many as a new source of income and an incentive for people to stay on in the surrounding, increasingly deserted villages.

Despite the sparse population around the park site, there are nevertheless some dissenting voices.

Most opposition comes from the indigenous Samis, who fear the towering turbines will heavily encroach on their reindeer grazing areas, already significantly hit by forestry and tourism in the area.

In late April, the local Sami council refused a compensation package of 5,000 kronor ($630) per turbine and per year, or a total of more than five million kronor each year after the entire park has been built.

"We say no. The amount does not correspond to the problems that this will cause and the threat it poses to our herds," Anders Ruth, who heads up the local council in Östra Kikkejaure, said.

Story continues below…

"The same number of reindeer will have to be fed in a much smaller area that will be much more developed," she added.

"This will not work and it is not possible to find other grazing grounds."

About a quarter of the local Sami grazing areas would be affected by the park, Ruth said.

In an attempt to appease the criticism, the project developers have stressed they will not fence in the area, but some 600 kilometres of new roads through the dense forests will in any case dramatically shrink the area where the reindeer are free to roam.

Svevind says it understands the reindeer owners concerns, but that there is no better alternative location for the park.

"It's true, the paper industry has already taken their forests, the dams have already taken their rivers, the mines have taken what's underground. And now it's the wind turbine," said Mikael Kyrk, a Swedish Svevind executive.

"But at the same time, that's the way development works."

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Your comments about this article

13:36 June 13, 2010 by Nemesis
This is a great advancement for Sweden.

Lots of wind turbines combined with hydro and nuclear to smooth out power fluctuations will greatly reduce reliance on fossil fuels.

By reducing fossil fuel imports that will help the balance of payments for Sweden in the long term.

I would suggest that Sweden further diversifies its energy production, so as to reduce reliance on any particular source.
13:45 June 13, 2010 by Traveler2010
It's important to remember that even wind turbines aren't a totally benign source of energy. When you build wind farms out in the middle of the wilderness like that, that means you are carving up & fragmenting the forest with miles and miles of access roads, and causing huge, permanent openings in the forest canopy where each turbine itself is sited. Also, the spinning blades kill a lot of birds and bats.
14:28 June 13, 2010 by Dazzler
Sami always have to have something to whine about. Bitches!
14:35 June 13, 2010 by MyPerspective
Whew, what a disappointing article. Wind energy is not at all as angelic as folks make it out to be. There must be a better answer to our energy needs. True green energy should not sacrifice green areas.
15:12 June 13, 2010 by DavidtheNorseman
I'm puzzled. If there are only "3" owners then how are the Sami involved? Why not build them offshore? Encroaching on reindeer lands is wrong and those windmills are irritatingly squeaky...It seems this is all at the expense of the Sami...again.

Another thing not covered is what is the cost/kwh? In the Province of Ontario in Canada the cost of wind power is 20 times the cost of nuclear. This project might replace 2 nuclear plants but will it be cost effective?

Not just to complain, has tidal energy off Sweden's long coast been looked at? Here is the Scottish take:

15:40 June 13, 2010 by calebian22
Equivalent to two nuclear reactors, hmmm. Is this an average or is this at peak operation? The wind is not consistent even in zones that have been determined to be good locations for windfarms. Two nuclear powerplants sounds great, if the power production estimates are not based on peak output under ideal wind conditions.
15:43 June 13, 2010 by RoyceD
Several things really upset me about this plan, but to keep it short.

1) you can't buy off a people tradition, it is the height of arrogance to put wind farms ahead of a people culture.

2) Sure the wind farm will "hopefully" produce enough energy equivalent to 2 nuclear power plants, which is fantastic, but the way people work it will result in more energy being consumed rather than a switch from nuclear to wind energy.

3) If you have any eyes and brains you now realise that every energy system on the planet is connected to everything else in some way. The heat from the sun that reaches the lakes and rivers cause evapouration, which in turn powers the rain cycle, for example. If we are going to remove 2 nuclear power plants worth of energy from the wind system, where is that energy currently being used? Perhaps the wind currents in northern sweden drive weather systems out in the pacific? perhaps taking som much energy from the wind in one place is not such a good idea?

4) and finally this statement "It's true, the paper industry has already taken their forests, the dams have already taken their rivers, the mines have taken what's underground. And now it's the wind turbine," said Mikael Kyrk, a Swedish Svevind executive.

"But at the same time, that's the way development works."

That is not the way development works, it is the way elitist people see the earth, and it is disgusting
17:08 June 13, 2010 by Rey Stockholm
This whole thing is a scam designed to attract tax payments from the government. Wind is so unreliable that sites typically run at only 7% of theoretical capacity.

Therein lies the weasel words - "theoretical capacity" which supporters use for comparison. The reality is countries need to build extra fossil fuel stations to provide back up to the new wind farms !

Unless the green lobbty will accept no power when no wind there is no alternative to fossil or nuclear. Sooner or later it will have to be nuclear as fossil will run out
19:01 June 13, 2010 by wxman
There are hundreds of these monstrosities across northern Illinois in the farmlands of the USA. In addition to killing countless fowl, these windmills create a maddening side effect at dawn and dusk for about an hour each time. We've even got a name for it, "shadow flicker" (Google it to see what it looks like). It's awful. Causes severe headaches and mental depression. Get rid of them; what they produce in power is too infinitesimal to outway the negative side effects.
19:32 June 13, 2010 by Nemesis
Wether you doubters like it or not, we are stuck with wind until ITER type fusion reactors are bult and working.

Fossil fuel we need to get away from.

Nuclear fusion is the way forward.
20:54 June 13, 2010 by Frank Lee
These projects are crazy stupid. The actual electricity produced is minimal (the article is obviously citing the maximum capacity, which is rarely if ever attained). Wind farms are just great opportunities for rent seekers.
21:20 June 13, 2010 by Iraniboy
I can't believe I read this. Of course building anything can harm something. It's all about trade offs. Building these wind farms in uninhabited areas causes far less problems than the alternatives. As for Germany, it is not wise to compare any part fof Germany to Sweden's up north!
21:26 June 13, 2010 by RoyceD
it is not uninhabited iraniboy
01:21 June 14, 2010 by shiraz
Will this impact the snow and rain transmittal to the south ? the equator or the tropics ? if it is as much as a thimble or a drop of rain, then the wind farms are not good.
02:37 June 14, 2010 by Roy E
Big huge migratory bird slice and dice machines.

They fling some pretty serious ice missiles also.
04:55 June 14, 2010 by för30årseden
Frank Lee has it right. The comparison to nuclear reactors is deceitful. The best nuclear reactors of the older generation, designed 40 years ago, can operate at the equivalent of 95% of full capacity year round. With wind, it varies. It could be anywhere between 25-50%, but more likely about 30%. So in reality, this huge project is probably the equivalent of 2/3 of a nuclear power plant. And, on top of that, since wind isn't reliable, you need to have a back up facility. Maybe in Sweden it will be Norske hydro, but it not, it will be a fossil fuel plant operating very inefficiently (stop and go) because it's backing up a silly, over-subsidized, wind plant so somebody can feel virtuous. Now that Swedes really aren't Lutherans any more, they need an alternative religion to make themselves feel virtuous -- so they picked alternative energy.
07:43 June 14, 2010 by capt
Build these monsters in your own urban backyard not the beautiful pristine forest land that will never stand silent again. Hrooomm Hrooomm Hrooomm goes the windmill-like a train that never comes. Not to mention the visual pollution littering the countryside.

Go nuclear!
08:49 June 14, 2010 by wabasha
royce D! your #3 is pure fiction. the wind resistance caused by these is like a fart in the wind. the wind that effects weather is much higher than 50 meters from ground.
09:34 June 14, 2010 by RobinHood
Wind power. Greens you are being misinformed.The same people who ran DotComs ten years ago are involved in this industry. The numbers don't add up, it's a scam to deceive starry eyed politicians and extract vast amounts of tax. They don't generate the power that we will need. They are expensive to build, expensive to maintain and breakdown alot.

If we can't take the tough decisions to reduce energy consumption to about half what they are now, we have two serious long-term options, both of which involve the north of Sweden: Nuclear power or hydro.

When we learn that wind energy doesn't work (we will notice when the lights go out), these will have to be built anyway, so we may as well start now.
19:50 June 14, 2010 by Just_Kidding
so in short, people are not happy about the subsidies that the wind energy is receiving.
02:09 June 15, 2010 by för30årseden
Just_kidding --

It's not just the subsidies. It's the pretending to do something useful. If global warming is real, you need real solutions not pretend solutions.
02:58 June 15, 2010 by Roy E

I'm afraid you are correct. This is mostly about striking a self-righteous, trendy pose.
05:00 June 15, 2010 by here for the summer
This is a good article and the turbines are a good idea. Nuclear is the best but they have all been stopped by unreasonable fears. Global warming is real and coal which Sweden and most of Northern Europe uses is the worst . Telling people to quit using power as an option is as silly and impossible the sexual abstinence program pushed by conservatives in the in leu of sex education.
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