Finns consider broad compensation proposals

FINLAND: The Finnish government is to consider the introduction of a special redress process to compensate individuals and communities for gross disturbances caused by the erection of wind farms in their area.

The demand for such a scheme has come from both the wind industry and community groups. Investors believe a redress scheme could have a positive effect in reducing delays in obtaining planning approval, both onshore and offshore. This view is endorsed by employment and economy minister Mauri Pekkarinen.

"The launch of such a scheme would be interesting, and I believe it would also be effective," he says, adding that several ministries would be involved and proper consultation would take place.

Jan Vapaavuori, Finland's housing minister, also wants to see national guidelines on redress drawn up.

The introduction of a redress scheme has gained political weight against a backdrop of large-scale wind farm projects, particularly in the Pohjanmaa region of west coast Finland, where local authorities are co-operating to attract new projects with a total potential installed capacity of up to 1.8GW. More than half of the 800 to 1,000 wind turbines that the government hopes will be built by 2020 could be in Pohjanmaa.

Pohjanmaa's potential as a wind energy producing region is detailed in a report by consultants Ramboll, which concluded that achieving capacity of up to 1.8GW in the region by 2030 could be a feasible objective.

"The assessments regarding the potential of Pohjanmaa are valuable but we have some way to go to translate potential into actual projects. We need to look at the present planning system and how this may impede development," says Michael Luther, chairman of Mustasaari municipality, one of the biggest local authorities in the province.

"We also need to identify the best sites for wind farms in the region," he adds.

Saini Heikuri Alborzi, spatial planning director with Pohjanmaan Liitto (PL), the economic organisation for the region's municipalities, agrees that the region would benefit from a compensation scheme.

"The potential may suggest that 500 to 600 wind turbines will be located in different areas in Pohjanmaa province, but it is not certain at this stage just how many projects will be realised. There are outstanding issues that need to be resolved, such as an efficient process to deal with residents and communities, and environmental concerns," says Heikuri Alborzi.

He adds that PL is currently working to identify areas suitable for wind farm development and measures to speed up planning. A draft plan will be presented to Pohjanmaa's municipalities in 2011.

Whatever the location, wind energy developers will need a transparent production system and a strong support package, says Luther.

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