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Wind energy blows back on course

Wind turbines in operation in the Jura (suisse eole)

Wind energy is set to make a comeback in Switzerland, with the unveiling of a major project designed to increase capacity by ten times the current amount.

The authorities are seeking to win over environmental organisations, which have in the past criticised wind turbines as a blot on the landscape.

In 2003 the Swiss threw out two popular initiatives which had sought to abandon nuclear power in favour of alternative sources of energy.

But rising oil prices have since led the government to reassess the importance of renewable energy.

According to the Federal Energy Office, by 2010 Switzerland should be producing ten times more electricity from wind energy than it does today.

Power needs

But the authorities also point out that such an increase would still only total 0.1 per cent of the country’s total electricity needs.

Officials have already pinpointed 28 locations where wind turbines could be set up.

Environmental groups have also been brought on board to help in the process of deciding where the turbines should be located.

Pro Natura, the Swiss branch of non-governmental organisation Friends of the Earth, has in the past criticised the construction of wind turbines as a blot on the landscape.

But the green group welcomes the government’s new wind energy campaign and has adopted a more moderate tone, calling for “an in-depth assessment of all new locations”.

Broad support?

Though the electorate threw out the idea of dumping nuclear power in a nationwide vote last year, previous surveys have shown that wind energy enjoys broad support.

A poll conducted in 2002 by the Vevey-based research institute, Mediactif, found that 89 per cent of those surveyed were in favour of wind as an alternative form of power.

When asked to explain the term “renewable energy”, 57 per cent referred to wind power. Other alternatives mentioned by survey respondents included solar and geothermal energy, and hydroelectric power.

Three-quarters of those polled said they would not mind if wind turbines were put up in their neighbourhood.

Recent surveys in two locations which already have wind turbines found the majority of local residents had no objections to living close to the power sources.

Concerns

Nevertheless, the government is concerned that people living in areas which may be earmarked for turbines could attempt to block or delay construction work.

The authorities say they will therefore conduct research into the suitability of each location before deciding whether to go ahead with the plans.

Criteria to be taken into account include distance from places of residence and the impact on the natural environment.

The bulk of Switzerland’s wind energy is currently generated at the Mont Crosin power plant in the Jura.

Two new wind turbines are to be installed at the site and energy production is to be increased by 80 per cent – enough to provide electricity for 2,700 homes.

The authorities plan to extend the wind energy facilities at the site even further in future as part of efforts to supply five per cent of all electricity requirements in the region between Nyon in canton Vaud and Delémont in canton Jura.

“And all of this energy will be 100 per cent pollutant-free,” assures the Federal Energy Office.

swissinfo, Urs Maurer

Key facts

In a survey conducted in 2002, 89% of those polled said they were in favour of promoting wind energy in Switzerland.
Three-quarters of survey respondents said they could envisage living close to a wind turbine.

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In brief

The Federal Energy Office has earmarked 28 locations as sites for the future construction of wind energy plants.

The aim is to produce ten times more electricity from wind energy by 2010.

Most of Switzerland’s wind energy is currently generated at the Mont Crosin power plant in the Jura.

end of infobox


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