Policy change in Denmark

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New draft guidelines for wind turbine siting in Denmark, released in July by energy and environment minister Svend Auken, have raised a storm of protest from the country's wind lobby. It fears that the government circular, which if adopted will require local authority planners to concentrate new wind turbines in specially designated areas, will effectively put a stop to wind energy development by the private sector. The proposal was due to be discussed late last month in a parliamentary committee.

Auken stresses that the proposed planning directive is not a stop on wind development in Denmark, as the wind lobby claims. "The newest wind turbines are up to 90 metres high and even a small number of these can dominate the landscape over a very large distance. They must, therefore, be placed with special care," he says.

Auken stresses the importance of erecting turbines in clear, geometric patterns, with sufficient spacing and special attention to height. "I am aware the directive could slow the rate of wind turbine construction. But this is a necessary and essential tightening of the existing practice for siting of wind turbines," Auken adds.

Denmark's wind turbine owners' association accepts Auken's argument that without proper control of the development of megawatt scale turbines, the existing popular support for wind is at risk. "But the association feels that risk could be reduced by only tightening the rules for wind turbines with hub heights over 50 metres," says chairman Flemming Tranæs. As it is there are already examples of local authorities -- both at regional and district level -- interpreting the planning policy note as a brake on onshore wind development, the association claims.

The issue is highly sensitive in Denmark, which now has upwards of five thousand wind turbines. The turbine owners association recently reacted strongly against a series of pamphlets issued by the Danish Nature Conservancy Association (DN). The intention of the pamphlets is to inform citizens of their rights when threatened by the arrival in their neighbourhood of a series of necessary modern evils: railways, roads, pig or chicken farms, industrial complexes -- and wind turbines. But the combined might of thousands of turbine owners in cahoots with the wind industry was too much for DN. It recalled the wind pamphlet within days.

Local government in Denmark is required to shoulder its share of the responsibility for seeing that renewable energy is put to work for the good of the country. Each local authority is obliged by central government to plan for its contribution to the overall goal for wind power to meet 10% of electricity needs. The requirement includes an obligation for detailed wind turbine siting zones. Where such zones already exist, the new directive's mandate for wind sites to be included in regional structure plans will not apply, says Auken.

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