Dutch are souring on windmills
THE HAGUE _ For centuries, windmills kept the Netherlands dry and its postcard industry humming. But these days the Dutch are souring on wind power. Windmills rise from sea and land here, as tall as 35-story office buildings, as wide as airports. Along Dutch shorelines modern-day windmills form Jurassic Park fences on steroids. An increasingly topical question here: how much vista-spoiling should a nation already very short on big-sky spaces accept?
Europe’s push for a sensible energy mix has blessed its wind industry with annual growth rates of 15% since 1995. The EU’s installed wind power capacity, now 105 gigawatts, will soar to 230 by 2020, meeting 17% of Europe’s electricity needs. The top windmill builders are Germany, Spain and Britain. The Dutch rank 10th, just ahead of Romania and Greece.
The modern windmill debate has been bubbling for a while. In May, the powerful ANWB tourism and travel lobby joined it by expressing “concern over government plans to install wind parks closer to the North Sea coast. This will considerably increase the mills’ visibility,” ruining the view from the shore. The ANWB serves its 4 million members with, among other things, travel insurance, holiday packages, travel guides and legal aid.
To date, it has acquiesced in the building of 2 offshore windmill parks outside the Dutch 12-mile zone. Now that the government is looking for locations closer to lands, the ANWB has begun polling its members. Wind mills at sea change the sea views from the Dutch coast, says the ANWB. “We think it is only logical that people who spend their time off enjoying our coast and sea are informed about the government’s plan and that their voice is heard.”
In a small, tightly populated country like the Netherlands, space management and quality of life are high priorities. Dutch waterways, lakes and coastlines are hailed as places where you can still enjoy quiet, wide open spaces. Tourism and yachting lobbies say outsized windmills are a nuisance saying they distort natural proportions and mar unspoiled vistas. Already, North Sea mills are visible from your towel on a Dutch beach. More than 60 potential wind farm sites have been identified in the North Sea and on land.
Wind energy debates generate riots of conflicting cost-benefit ratios, depending on a pro or anti-bias. But how to quantify windmills’ nuisance factor? The Dutch “Critical Platform Wind Energy” site uses a “wind mill pressure” norm. It is calculated using a nation’s installed wind power capacity, population size and land space. That gave the Netherlands a “wind mill pressure’’ of almost 3 times higher than Denmark, No. 7 on the EU list of wind power nations, 3 places above the Netherlands.