Wind industry calls for easing of siting regulations

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The Japanese wind industry and local governments are calling on the environment ministry to relax planning regulations so that more wind farms can be built in the country's 28 national and 55 quasi-national parks, where the landscape is protected under current law. Failure to do so will mean the government's target of 3000 MW of wind capacity by 2010 will not be met, says the New Energy Foundation, an affiliate of the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry. To date just 18 wind projects -- most of them for research or small scale power generation -- have gained approval for development in these protected landscapes. Only one commercial wind project, in Mie prefecture, has been permitted in a quasi-national park, but several prefectures have similar plans they hope to proceed with. Both Hyogo and Okayama prefectures revealed plans for wind development in national parks in January. The Hyogo plan, proposed by the prefecture's Nandancho government, would see turbines installed in Cape Naruto national park, currently a special protection district in the Seto Inland Sea. Similar plans proposed in the past by the government have been abandoned due to planning restrictions, hence the call on the environment ministry for a relaxation of the rules. Public opposition to relaxation of the regulations is widely expected and the environment ministry is said to be cautious. "How can an artificial landscape dotted with windmills keep a balance with the natural beauty of parks? There must be many other places where strong winds blow," an official from the ministry is quoted as saying in a report in the Yomiura newspaper.

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