Science - June 16, 2010

Locate windmills together in big parks

The Netherlands should locate its windmills together in big wind parks along the coast and in the polders, so that areas elsewhere can be windmill-free. This is stated in an exploratory policy study by the Ministry of Housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment (VROM).

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The present policy has resulted in windmills being located all over the country. With hardly any control at the national level, each province carries out the policy in its own way. This has to change, the Director-General of Spatial Planning Chris Kuijpers informed wind traders present during the 'Day of the Wind' in Lelystad. VROM is putting the finishing touches to an exploratory policy study into aspects of wind energy on land.
Resistance
The Day of the Wind was organized by Acrres, the Application Centre for Renewable Resources of  Wageningen UR.  Wageningen UR was not involved by coincidence, but as the owner of the biggest windmill park in Flevoland. Located in Lelystad, its 26 windmills can together supply enough electricity (52 MW) for about 30,000 households. This may seem like a drop in the bucket compared to the 2000 MW supplied by windmills throughout the Netherlands.
But even that quantity is too little. According to national objectives, there ought to be 6000 MW of wind energy produced on land by 2010, three times as much as the amount available now.  'We have therefore a lot of catching up to do', contended Kuijpers. Strict procedures and social resistance are the main bottle-necks. VROM wants to take a stand against both these hindrances by having windmills located together in big wind parks in a few areas only.
Along the edges
VROM has indicated ten areas most suitable for locating wind parks. These include big agriculture areas along the edges of the country, places where the wind is strongest and with no air fields nearby (no radar interference). Besides Zealand, the top of North Holland, Friesland and Groningen, other areas mentioned are in the polders and West Brabant, where many and very tall windmills can be built. On the other hand, there are areas which should be kept free of windmills: the Wadden Sea, the Natura-2000 areas, the national landscapes and areas with air traffic. Windmills can be located on the remaining areas if they are not too tall and strategically located, such as when combined with business parks. This proposed three-pronged approach very much resembles the policy set up for intensive livestock farming.
Involvement
It remains to be seen if the wind business sector will be quick  to take up on this approach. Outgoing minister Van der Hoeven (Economic Affairs) reminded those present of the importance of social involvement. 'It will be a challenge to get citizens engaged in this matter. Wind energy really needs social involvement.'  As an example, she mentioned the very recent decision not to allow too many windmills into Urk. Seven of the almost eighty windmills have been taken out of the plans because they would be located too close to the village. In addition, Urk inhabitants can participate in the windmill park venture.

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