Energy provider Orkusalan intends to erect wind turbines in the Útherað district in East Iceland, RÚV reports. But while supporters welcome these as a new source of green energy, detractors say the move will create visual pollution in the area, and may not be as green an energy source as advertised.
Orkusalan received a permit to erect a 50-meter [164-ft] experimental mast at the Lagarfoss hydroelectric power plant in order to assess wind energy in the rural district. Eventually, the company intends to build two 150-160-meter [492-525-ft] wind turbines that would be able to produce just under 10 MW of electric energy.
Representatives of the Centre Party and the Left-Greens on the local home council opposed granting Orkusalan the initial permit, while representatives of the Progressive Party, the Independence Party, and Austurlistinn were in favour, saying that this was a way for the municipality to play its part in Iceland’s shift to green energy. The district’s current land use plan does not permit wind turbines, so Orkusalan’s plans may require an environmental assessment.
In their dissent, the Left-Green representative said that the turbines would create very little financial benefit for the region, and was seconded by the Centre Party representative, who said that wind energy was unreliable and not as green as claimed. The Centre rep continued that Orkusalan also had a permit to research the construction of a hydropower plant in the region, which would potentially generate up to 140 MW of energy, which would be more worth investigating. Both representatives said that an assessment needed to be done as to whether wind power stations belong in the district at all.
Voicing the concerns of some locals, Úthérað resident Þorsteinn Gústafsson wrote an op-ed for the regional paper Austurfréttir, citing a Norwegian and Scottish study that found that the paddles on windmills shake loose as much as 62 kilos [137 pounds] of microplastic a year, specifically fiberglass particles that crack from the edges of the paddles and contain the toxin BPA. Þorsteinn also said the question of visual pollution was not insignificant, as the wind turbines would be visible throughout the district.