Wind power projects in France could be subject to yet another administrative delay if a new law sponsored by 72 Senators in the upper house of parliament is passed. The Senators propose that all projects involving turbines over 50 metres tall should be put to a vote among local residents. "The time when some people wanted to impose projects on the population is over," they say. The wind industry and environmentalists point out that no other industrial project is subject to such a vote. The proposal would mean "more public consultation for a single wind turbine than for a nuclear power station, incinerator or rubbish dump," states France Nature Environment, a federation of environmental associations. Under the Senators' plan, individual local authorities would decide whether to include all local residents in the vote or only those within sight of the turbines. The vote would not be binding, but would form part of the consultative process. Local residents, however, are already consulted "at every stage of the development process," says Benoît Seveno of the Renewable Energy Syndicate. By law all turbines over 50 metres have to undergo both an impact study and a public inquiry. In addition, the introduction in 2005 of wind power development zones, which are proposed by the local authorities, "constitutes an additional tool in reinforcing consultation and support at the local level," Seveno adds. Processing a permit for a wind plant already takes 13 months on average in France, as against nine months in 2006. One-third of applications are never completed. If France is to meet its renewables targets, "It is vital not to increase the existing constraints to which wind power projects are already subject," argues Seveno.
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