Decisions on Wind Farms Should Rest with Local Authorities, Not Alþingi, Says Utility Federation

The decision as to whether wind farms should be erected in a given municipality should rest with local authorities—not Alþingi, says Samorka, the federation of energy and utility companies in Iceland, RÚV reports.

A parliamentary working group is currently seeking feedback from utility providers and local municipalities regarding wind energy utilization throughout the country. For its part, Samorka wants to be able to erect wind farms in places where harnessing wind power is facilitated by wind direction, the surrounding landscape, and the existing infrastructure, provided that the local community is in favour of the turbines and that no environmentally protected areas are damaged in the process.

“This is a decision about temporary utilization in a specific area and of course it’s the residents and their elected officials who are best suited to assessing what the impacts will be and whether [the erecting of wind turbines] should go ahead,” said Samorka executive director Finnur Beck.

Background Reading: Green Energy or Giant Eyesore? East Iceland Residents Debate Wind Turbines (November 2021)

The mayor of Fljótsdalshérað, a district in East Iceland that plans to erect wind farms, was recently quoted as being in agreement with Samorka, believing that decisions about this should rest with local communities.

There has been some concern, however, that large-scale windfarms could soon become a feature of landscapes all over the country. Landvernd, the Icelandic Environment Association, has declared wind turbines “an attack on Icelandic nature” and in the wake of various wind utilization proposals, put together a map to help visualize what a potential proliferation of windfarms in Iceland could actually look like. Landvernd says that as many as 40 wind farms are currently on the table.

Landvernd's map showing all the sites that have been proposed for wind energy projects around Iceland. The Icelandic energy and utility federation says that there's no plan to erect wind turbines on all these sites simultaneously. Map via Landvernd.
Landvernd’s map showing all the sites that have been proposed for wind energy projects around Iceland. The Icelandic energy and utility federation says that there’s no plan to erect wind turbines on all these sites simultaneously. Via Landvernd.

Finnur says, however, that the idea was never to erect all of wind farms that had been proposed, simply that a number of potential sites were identified when the National Energy Authority, Orkustofnun, called for proposals.

Asked if Samorka was looking to erect wind farms “all over the place, as some have predicted,” Finnur was quick to demur.

“No, and it’s a good thing you ask about that,” he said. “There was a fair amount time given [for wind energy harnessing proposals] and this led to a number of ideas about potential wind energy projects. But these sites still need to be studied and a lot of work remains to be done in a lot of places and I have no reason to believe—or it is almost definitely out of the question—that [turbines would be erected] in all of the places that have been identified as potential wind energy utilization sites in the current framework programme.”

Thousands Watched the Demolition of a Damaged Wind Turbine

Thousands of people watched a live stream of the demolition of a damaged wind turbine in Þykkvabær last night. According to Ásgeir Margeirsson, who managed the operation on behalf of the owners of the turbine, the blades of the turbine’s rotor had caught fire and started spinning on New Year’s Day. It was considered to be hazardous to leave it in that condition, especially considering the stormy weather that is forecast tonight. “Therefore, it was a priority to bring down the wind turbine as soon as possible,” Ásgeir says. He adds that the decision to demolish the turbine was made on Monday, and the operation started the day after.

The felling of the turbine, which was carried out with controlled explosions, took much longer than the explosives experts that oversaw the operation had anticipated.

The wind turbine was 60 metres tall [197 ft] and weighed more than twenty tonnes. The explosive ordnance disposal unit (EOD) at the Icelandic Coast Guard had hoped that one explosion would suffice to bring down the turbine, but they did not succeed until after the sixth one.

Margeirsson says he is happy that the operation turned out to be successful in the end, and adds that he is extremely grateful for the service of the Police, the Icelandic Coastguard and the local authorities, who all participated in the project.

“An extraordinarily complex task”

Explosives expert Ásgeir Guðjónsson said in an interview with Vísir that the operation was one the most difficult projects that the EOD had ever been involved with.

“The tower of the wind turbine was made of two centimetres [0.7 inches] thick steel. Felling a steel tower of this kind is an extraordinarily complex task. These are, in fact, the most complex controlled explosions that are carried out. We are certainly explosives experts, but this is definitely not a run-of-the-mill operation,” Guðjónsson said.He added that in the end, the project was successful, and said that he hoped that those who watched the live stream had a good time.

Margeirsson says that cleaning operations are already underway and that the remaining debris will be recycled. “It is one of the great things about renewable energy, that wind turbines can be demolished and then recycled,” Margeirsson adds.

Green Energy or Giant Eyesore? East Iceland Residents Debate Wind Turbines

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.