Finns still sharply divided over wind power

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An offshore wind farm near the coastal city of Kemi in northwest Finland. (Riikka Rautiainen/ Yle)
An offshore wind farm near the coastal city of Kemi in northwest Finland. (Riikka Rautiainen/ Yle)
Yle asked its audience whether or not they would welcome a wind turbine in close proximity to their home.

The resulting online discussion revealed clear differences of opinion: some people suspect the energy return from wind power (and other alternative energy options) would be negligible, while others support wind power wholeheartedly – so long as it is not in their backyard.

Respondents to a recent Yle-hosted online discussion on wind power revealed that Finland is still on the fence when it comes to wind power. When asked “How would you feel about a wind turbine in your neighbourhood?” responses varied.

“What kind of question is that? Of course I would welcome a wind farm in my backyard!” wrote one nameless respondent. “Naturally, the undertaking would have to comply with the requirements of any construction project: to first minimise the risk to the natural environment, the birds and bats. No valuable forest could be destroyed either. But if these issues were addressed, there would be no problem. Wind turbines are beautiful. If phone masts and other such towers are accepted as a part of the Finnish landscape, I can’t understand why wind turbines would be any different.”

Many echoed this sentiment, saying that natural environments must first be protected, along with a noise-free living environment. One Finn mentioned that his or her attitude changed once they had first-hand experience:

“I was against them before, but then a few years ago my neighbour had seven erected just over two kilometres from where I live. They haven’t caused me any inconvenience, no noise at all. You literally have to go and stand underneath them to hear anything. At least the new models are really silent.”

A respondent called “Nature lover” had the opposite experience:

“I would never agree to build one near my cabin. The glare, the pulsating noise around the clock, bird deaths, pieces of ice being thrown about – these risks disturb me. The scenery is destroyed when you construct a 150-metre metal tower with 60-metre-long wings. The market value of my cabin is also important to me. I worked hard to pay for it and no one is going to compensate me for lost value.”

Whoever reaps the profits should pay the costs

A respondent named “Ropeli” suspects the economic feasibility and profitability of wind power, saying wind firms should be placed where concentrations of supporters are largest.

“Wind power has never been a competitive energy source in Finland. But I would like to propose that all of the wind farms would be located along the southwest and southern coasts. There are plenty of islands and islets to choose from and there is even some wind to speak of from time to time. Here the hoi polloi could admire the turbines up close from the decks of their summer cabins and yachts. Otherwise, their opportunity to enjoy them might be too restricted, the whole thing will remain too exotic,” Ropeli says.

Another theme running through the online discussion was the idea that the lucky few would grab all the benefit, while everyone else would be left to deal with the irritating aftermath.

“I admit that I am truly jealous and plan to oppose to the last any effort on the part of a landowner to sell a hectare of land to the power company just so they can sit back and rake in the money while we neighbours suffer the consequences,” says one respondent using the moniker “Jealous in the opposition”.

In the city or out in the sticks?

There is a village named Jerusalem just outside the sparsely-populated eastern town of Ilomantsi on the Russian border. A respondent who calls himself ”A dude from Jerusalem” says he would be glad to have a wind firm next door – with a few caveats:

“Today’s wind farms, that feature masts over 200 metres tall, should only be built if they can be located more than 3 kilometres from the nearest dwelling. This rule should apply to both cabins and homes. It also cannot restrict the neighbours’ land use in any way.”

“Forced to have one” had a harsh experience to share:

“We’ve got those mills just 1,800 metres from our home and the noise is really a nuisance if the conditions are right. You can even hear them clearly inside the house at night. It is a totally different deal to stop your car by the side of the road and listen than to try to sleep in a quiet room with that sound.”

The city of Sysmä, located in the central region of Päijät-Häme, is currently debating whether it should invest in a wind farm. “City dweller” would rather see the farms placed in urban areas:

”Sure, I would be okay with that, but why don’t they construct them in the cities where there is already a bunch of noise. It wouldn’t make those concrete jungles any uglier either, on the contrary. You could build several along the Salpausselkä ridges in Lahti, and motorway 12 wouldn’t be any worse off with them either. It is peaceful and beautiful in the countryside; we don’t need large wind turbines here.”

Related stories from around the North:

Canada:  Canada ponders exceptions to relief well rule for Arctic oil drilling, Alaska Dispatch

Finland: Solar and wind power yield cheapest energy say Finnish experts, Yle News

Greenland: Arctic oil and gas must stay in ground to restrict warming to 2°C says study, Blog by Mia Bennett

Iceland:  From Arctic Circle 2013-2014, a big drop in the price of oil, Blog by Mia Bennett

Norway:  Norway offers 34 Arctic blocks along Russian border, Barents Observer

Russia: Peace and stability crucial for Arctic economy, Barents Observer

Sweden: Lower electricity bills for Swedes, Radio Sweden

United States: Alaska’s financial dilemma: Reserve funds lately have earned more money than oil, Alaska Dispatch News

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