Why Do Wind Turbines Windup So Many Emotions?

(MENAFN- Swissinfo) Swiss public television, SRF, met with hotel owner and wind energy opponent Elias Vogt in the Jura mountains. He is fighting the new Electricity supply Act with his association " Freie Landschaft Schweiz” (free landscape Switzerland). His fight is primarily due to the expansion of wind energy.

This content was published on May 24, 2024 - 11:00 4 minutes Mirjam Spreiter, SRF
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“There are plans for 250 metre wind turbines in Switzerland. That's huge, it's almost unimaginable,” says Vogt. He also criticises the fact that the new law would allow wind turbines in forest areas.“That would be bad for Switzerland nature and forests,” says Vogt.

The Electricity Supply Act aims to make it easier to build wind turbines in clearly defined areas. This includes in forests – under certain conditions. One condition is that cleared trees must be replaced.

Currently, there are a total of 47 large wind turbines in Switzerland. According to Energy Minister Albert Rösti, the new law could increase this to around 200 wind turbines by 2035. By comparison, there are over 1,400 wind turbines in Austria. Vogt, however, expects 750 to 1,000 wind turbines in Switzerland.

Energy companies are eager to build more wind turbines. Alpiq only operates one wind farm in the municipality, Le Peuchapatte, located close to the Jura mountains. Project manager, Raynald Golay, is hoping the new law will be accepted.“Wind energy provides us with the energy that we urgently need during the winter months. We also hope that the process for implementation will be implemented quickly so that we can push ahead with the energy transition.”

Golay explains that before a wind turbine is built, numerous studies are carried out on the regional environmental impact as well as on the birds and bats in the area.

If you talk to people in villages where a wind farm is planned, the arguments are often emotional. In the Sonvilier municipality in the Bernese Jura the arguments sounds something like the following:“It distances individuals from the landscape, we prefer trees rather than wind turbines”, or,“I'm in favour of new energy, but rather in favour of solar than wind.” Even those in favour of wind energy don't want wind turbines close to their homes.

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A long-standing supporter of wind energy in Montreux in canton Vaud, Jacqueline de Quattro, was the cantons energy director until five years ago. There she quickly understood how polarising this topic can be.

She heard a lot of bizarre stories:“Hamsters die in their running-wheels, milk goes bad, people go mad because of the shadows.” She acknowledges that in certain areas through which migratory birds fly the turbines must be turned off during their migratory season.

But it cannot be said that wind turbines would wipe out birds.“A domestic cat is much more dangerous for the birds,” says de Quattro. During her time as director of energy, leaflets were used to campaign against wind turbines and also against herself.

Today, she represents the Radical-Liberal Party in parliament. She is in favour of the Electricity Supply Act. Energy security is needed for Switzerland: security of supply, but also security of investment.“It is important to know in which areas wind turbines can be built and where they cannot” she says. In areas where construction is cannot be planned, nature will be better protected than it is currently.

'Switzerland is not a wind country'

Back on the mountains with the wind energy opponent, Vogt has his own explanation as to why the wind turbine debate is so emotional:“Switzerland is not a wind country.” There was only one windmill in the entire history of the country in the Middle Ages.“This technology doesn't belong in Switzerland,” Vogt says.

That being said, wind turbine technology is relatively new. Another reason is the size of these turbines: they are visible from afar due to their large size. Wind energy currently only accounts for 0.3% of Swiss electricity production – but the topic is very contentious.

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