One of the Petitions we looked at last week in Romania related to the issue of wind turbine installations in Baia, which lies in the Danube delta, and therefore is also part of the Natura 2000 ecological network of protected areas in the EU.
The bus journey, which saw the delegation travel through empty countryside dotted increasingly with wind turbines in the far distance, took a long five hours before we reached the site of the proposed wind farm installation. In fact, we found that not only had wind turbine installations been proposed, but a significant number had already been built (though they did not seem to be working). The petitioners from the Societatea Ornitologica Romana, who are strongly opposing the installation of around 4000 turbines, met the delegation for a brief presentation on the bus and began to explain the struggles they had faced with the local authorities.
As so often happens with EU funded projects, there seemed to be dirty work at the crossroads. According to the petitioners, the application did not follow EU regulations on independent environmental impact assessments. They claim that the assessors hired by the authorities are paid for by the investors of the proposed wind farms, and are in addition not sufficiently experienced in the relevant field to produce a valid and realistic report on the impact the wind turbines would have on the surrounding bird habitats, which are home to an important migrant route for rare red-breasted geese.
They spoke of the so-called ‘Salami effect’, where the local authorities are trying to sneak in 4000 turbines, by bunching a few hundred together and presenting them as individual applications, as opposed to one single application for all, which quite likely would not meet the required criteria. The environmental impact assessments on smaller numbers are more likely to be acceptable. Of course we see this in the UK where developers get permission for a few turbines and come back later for a second bite at the cherry.
Another major factor in this saga is, of course, the widespread local corruption. It is claimed by the petitioners, and by local politicians opposing the developments that the construction of sites, connecting roads and of the actual turbines is often underway long before any authorisation has been granted.
We had the impression that the projects were driven more by investment needs and the enthusiasm for EU funding, rather than by any real concern about the environment and climate change. Which I suppose is fair enough, since wind turbines are (as Prince Philip said) “Useless and a disgrace”. Or as someone said in an e-mail to me recently, “Spinning post-industrial junk”.