New rules could make it harder to install wind turbines in France

Government objectives to double the number of land wind farms hindered by moves to give mayors the right to veto installations and an increase in distance rules to military radars

Wind farm at sunrise. New rules could make it more harder to install wind turbines in France
The number of windfarms in France is expected to increase from 800 today up to 1,200-1,400 by 2023
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New rules restricting areas in which wind turbines can operate and giving mayors increased powers of refusal will make it more difficult to install new wind turbines in France.

The defence ministry decreed on June 18 that wind turbines must now be installed at least 70km away from military radars, instead of 30km as previously.

The ministry said the new rule had been introduced to stop wind turbines scrambling radar signals.

It means that new installations will have to be approved by the ministry, which will check the “feasibility of the project in terms of possible disruption to radars and national security demands,” it said in a statement.

A number of planned wind farms are expected to be affected by the measure, as are government plans to double the number of land wind farms in France.

Paul Neau, member of environmental research bodies négaWatt and Abies, told La Dépêche the new rule would “multiply the amount of land covered by military radars by five.”

Factoring in aviation and weather radars not used by the military, he said 30-40% of land in France would now be ineligible for turbine installations.

The prime minister’s office has said the rule from the defence ministry will be reviewed in six months, and possibly modified.

Mayors set to be given more powers to refuse turbines

The Senate also passed a new measure on June 18, giving mayors the right to veto new wind turbine installations via debate with municipal councils.

The new rule would also mean local referendums could be held on whether turbines should be installed.

The measure still has to be approved by parliament before it becomes law.

Minister for Ecological Transition, Barbara Pompili, has already said the rule will put undue pressure on mayors, who could be “taken hostage by certain interest groups”.

Instead, she said, the government should identify zones where wind farms could be developed and get local officials and groups “around the table” to discuss which were feasible.

Mr Neau said the rule would be an “extra constraint” on getting new turbines installed and may be unnecessary as “wind farms are not made in secret”.

“Prefects have to give their authorisation. Then you need agreement from different commissions: landscape and agriculture… It takes 10 years to develop plans for new wind farms,” he said.

The ecology ministry has previously had to defend its decisions on where to install wind turbines.

In a press conference on May 28, Ms Pompili said that all installations were subject to studies measuring their potential impact against three objectives: “preserving the landscape and heritage, project evolution in terms of impact on the landscape, and reducing impact”.

Expert denies windfarms are not eco friendly

In recent months politicians and high-profile figures in France, including TV presenter Stéphane Bern, have spoken out against wind turbines.

Mr Bern said that they were the opposite of eco-friendly as they were responsible for destroying natural heritage and biodiversity and promoting fossil fuel use.

Mr Neau described these opinions as “fake news”, and refuted Mr Bern’s claims that wind turbines only worked 25% of the time and were made of unrecyclable materials.

He said: “That’s totally untrue, they work 80-90% of the time, but not at full power, and 90-95% of wind turbine parts are recyclable.”

He put opinions against wind turbines down to “fear of the unknown, rumours and irrational arguments” especially as energy produced by wind farms could be significantly cheaper than energy produced by other methods.

“For two projects run by [energy provider] EDF, nuclear energy costs €100 per megawatt hour in the UK, and €45 from an offshore windfarm near Dunkirk,” he said.

Mr Neau added that if the government raised more awareness of this and helped people in France transition to wind energy, support for windfarms would grow.

There are currently 800 windfarms in France. By 2023 this is expected to increase to 1,200-1,400 farms, with turbines that are more powerful.

Energy produced by windfarms currently accounts for 8.9% of energy consumed nationally.

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