The wind turbine controversy

Windy Islands

Windy Islands

Coming back from Israel, as I landed in Athens airport and went to collect my suitcase, there it was, a welcome advertisement, just at the lane where my suitcase would appear, promoting Clean Energy sources. The poster included a photo of a huge wind turbine and the slogan “Wind Energy projects”. It was signed by Capelouzos group.  Contradictory to the advertiser’s intention, I felt uneasy and disturbed, after all I do live on Paros, and this winter was all about the approval of a plan to install the same kind wind turbines on the island.  

Wind Energy projects

Wind Energy projects

Winter 2017 is remembered with stormy weather and strong winds on the outside and heated conversations and emotional reactions on the inside, in gatherings among the winter residents on the Island.  Paros, an island of almost 200 km² in the middle of the Aegean Sea is known for its beauty, beaches, and tranquility. The controversy was caused by the latest news about the plans to install over 100 huge wind turbines on the island, an island whose main source of income is from tourists and second- house- holders seeking peace and unspoiled nature.

In the beginning of February 2017 it was published that the Greek Minister of Environment and Industry, has approved (decision no. 177 360 dated 18.12.2014) environmental terms for the installation of a gigantic industrial project of wind parks on the islands of Andros,Naxos,Paros and Tinos.

As a fact, the Cycladic Islands are a very windy place and some high officials, unrelated to the islands, decided this condition is ideal for the production of large amounts of alternative wind energy to be exported to other parts of Greece and Europe.

A source of wind energy

A source of wind energy

On Paros alone the plan is to install 105 wind turbines, each 115 meters tall. The installation would require heavy equipment and for that wide roads must be paved, completely leveling the landscape.

Many on Paros reacted to the news of the upcoming plans in disbelief and denial.  Others claimed that Green Energy would be good for the island and bring clean energy instead of the electricity produced by fuel in the local electricity factory (which supplies electricity to 8 other islands).

Confusion and misinformation created a thick fog!

Throughout February and March 2017 the local municipality of Paros began holding public meetings to inform residents about the approved wind turbine project, in an attempt to mobilize public support to resist implementation of the plan.  Facebook groups shared information with translations into English and other languages so the many fans of Paros all over the world will know what’s going on. Volunteers worked within the villages to inform those who don’t have access to social media and internet. 

Public gatherings informing the people

Public gatherings informing the people

 

On the 24th of February, a meeting was held in town hall. The mayor, Markos Kovaios, and other officials made a dramatic call to the people and friends of Paros to get together and stop the plans to build the wind generators in some of the islands most beautiful areas.

 Some questions rouse as to how the plan was approved in the first place but apparently by now there is not much the municipality can do! And so the municipality asked the people to act, inform others and protest. If the people oppose firmly something could be done was the message!

Artistic protest

Artistic protest

Somehow, although the local laws about protection of the environment and landscape are very detailed, and one is not allowed even to open a bigger window or remove a tree without permission from the municipality, the residents learned that all these laws are overridden in favor of the new Green Energy plan. The plan was approved by the Greek ministry of Energy but is connected to a bigger European plan to manage and delegate energy from one part of the Union to other parts.  

Slowly more details of the plan leaked out to the public. In the 4 islands there are about 10 companies, 2 of them in Paros (but all with the same participants). The names are Strouboulas A.E. and Gourles A.E. These 2 companies (in Paros) are split into 8 parks on the mountains of:1) Marpissa including Afklaki, 2) over Aspro Horio, 3)on the top of Lagatha from Saint George monastery up to Strouboulas, 4) on the east hill of Thapsana, 5) in Naousa on kandinelies hill and 6)over Saint Andreas monastery , 7)on the west side of the island over Saint Haralambos monastery and 8) over “butterfly valley “. Most of these places are known for their unspoiled natural beauty.

On the 26th of March a big demonstration was held in the main square in Parakia, it was a warm Sunday and over 1000 people came to protest the plans.  

Paros said a clear, unanimous No to the wind turbine plan on the island! Municipality, Church, schools, businesses, Bee Keepers, the bird sanctuary, animal welfare societies,   and people from all walks of life, said No to the plan to install the huge turbines that would destroy the foundation of the peaceful life on the island.

Municipality, Church and schools say No to the plan

Municipality, Church and schools say No to the plan

The speakers stated some of the reasons for why the plan is untenable:

Paros is a small island with low rocky hills.

The turbines are over 100 meters tall

To install the turbines, wide roads to carry the heavy equipment need to be paved, destroying the landscape.

The turbines would create sound pollution due to local topographic and geological conditions

The Electromagnetic fields created by the turbines are harmful to flora, fauna and people

The project would require scarce land and water resources

The island would be used as a factory to produce energy exported to other places and would be connected to a European grid.

There is no advantage to the locals, not even a promise to reduce the price of electricity.

collecting signatures against the plan

collecting signatures against the plan

This may seem like a very local issue but it touches a subject of wide concern. The idea of Green energy is to create clean sources of energy to replace the current fuel or coal sources of energy, protect the quality of life and increase the independence of each area to rely on its own resources.

Due to global conditions of climate change it has been said that all fossil means of creating energy need to be replaced by 2050. In most countries in the EU this process is already happening. But the way it is happening is very different than the current plan which seems to ignore completely the interests of the locals and the environment in favor of some other interest still to be investigated.

Yes, of course the search for clean energy solutions is a must for a sustainable way of life but shouldn’t the solutions be suitable for the specific local conditions? Shouldn’t the local municipality have the ability to control what is done in its region and have the final decision?

The Energy revolution

In most areas throughout the European Union this is the case – guide lines are made on government levels and the local authorities decide what methods suit best, how much, where, how the locals would benefit and so on, according to the local interests. Such big projects with a crucial impact are done with the local cooperation.

From looking at the chosen locations for the wind turbines it seems they were chosen to maximize effective energy production but without regard to the harm created to the environment or the well-being of the local residents.

The 4 islands involved, Paros, Naxos, Andros and Tinos, appealed to the Greek Supreme Court against the decision of the ministry and the study presented by the companies involved.   They are all represented by one lawyer, Mr Giorgos Xanthoulis. The first hearing of this matter in is scheduled for 24/5/17

If indeed the Supreme Court will support the local law and the right of locals to plan their future, it will only be the beginning of a process to research the best solutions and move towards Green energy. Change and progress are inevitable and the people need to take an active part in shaping their future lives, in a healthy sustainable way.

Photo Tal Waldman

Protect the beauty and way of life

To support Paros, Naxos Andros and Tinos in this process please sign the public petitions: 

Save the Greek islands – Avvaz petition:

 https://secure.avaaz.org/en/petition/Save_the_Aegean_Islands/?aQztcbb

Υπουργείο Περιβάλλοντος & Ενέργειας: Όχι στην εγκατάσταση ανεμογεννητριών στις βουνοκορφές της Πάρου – another petition against the project (English text included):

https://secure.avaaz.org/el/petition/Ypoyrgeio_Perivallontos_Energeias_Ohi_stin_egkatastasi_anemogennitrion_stis_voynokorfes_tis_Paroy/?rc=fb&pv=12&utm_source=sharetools&utm_medium=facebook&utm_campaign=petition-408658-

 

More Links:

Link to the discussion on Paros&Naxos life :

https://www.facebook.com/groups/Paroslife/permalink/1306608392708468/?pnref=story

Previous discussions from 2014:

  https://www.facebook.com/groups/Paroslife/permalink/630663856969595/?hc_location=ufi

Expressing their opinion artistically on the subject of the Wind Turbines and our island PAROS:

. https://www.facebook.com/groups/261716954284028/

 

Οι ανεμόμυλοι των παππούδων μας (The windmills of our Grandfathers) 

https://www.facebook.com/ThewindmillsofourGrandfathers/posts/1379295705442994

 

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