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Sweden

Sweden

NIMBY PROTEST BACKFIRES

Applications for permission to build 27 new wind turbines on the large Swedish island of Öland have caused the country's first organised Nimsby-protest -- not in my summer backyard. A well publicised campaign, signed by 38 more-or-less prominent personalities, was delivered directly to the Swedish prime minister, Carl Bildt. The protesters were campaigning to save a unique stony landscape along the centre of the long, narrow island, with many rare orchids and other flowers. Wind turbines would change the area into an industrial landscape, they said.

On closer investigation it was discovered that only two of the 38 signatories were permanent residents of Öland. Another ten had holiday cottages in the area and were merely concerned about their scenic views. Two thirds of the signatories had no connection to Öland at all, but were university professors and lecturers in subjects like archaeology, botany, chemistry, and geology; and some were artists, actors and writers.

At a press conference called by the group it became clear that none of the proposed wind turbines would be erected on the unique tract of land, the Alvaret, but only in areas surrounding it. The only threat to the environment which emerged was that some of the wind turbines would be visible from some of the signatories summer residences -- and only during the few weeks when there was someone there to look at them. TV and newspaper reports which followed the press conference said the protest was a private concern and compared it with the strong local support for the development of wind power.

"This is a conflict between the local residents and the summer guests," explains community council chairman, Hardy Pettersson. "Those who visit Öland in the summer have conservative opinions about the landscape -- they want it to remain unchanged. The farmers living here look upon the landscape as a natural resource and use it to make a living." Pettersson points out that Öland was once home to 2700 windmills and 400 of these remain as carefully preserved monuments. The farmers of today are anxious to exploit the wind once more.

Today there are ten, 225 kW wind turbines operating in south Öland producing more than 600,000 kWh a year, more than anywhere else in Sweden. The government's decision to increase payment for wind energy by 35% from July 1 has created a rush of interest in wind energy investment. Proposals for 27 new wind turbines on Öland have come from a range of applicants, including several farmers in the area.

The local community of Mörbylånga is strongly in favour of wind power, supporting further development because it creates employment in this sparsely populated rural area. But, because the area is classified as being of national interest, the local people are not allowed to decide on planning matters without consulting higher authorities. "We should have more influence on these matters," says Hardy Pettersson, a strong spokesman for Mörbylånga. "We may get five new wind turbines on line this year, and maybe five to ten next year." He considers it to be a slow pace of development for an island that once had 2700 windmills.

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