Dutch province tilts at (real) windmills
AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - The Netherlands has been famous for its windmills for centuries but now one of its most populous provinces has said it wants to ban their modern-day incarnations - wind turbines - on the grounds that they are ugly and noisy.
The government of North Holland, home to the Netherlands' largest city, Amsterdam, has authorized a giant wind power project in the north of the province and had been considering applications to construct 20 similar projects.
But on Wednesday it said it would not give any other wind power projects the go-ahead after the existing project - which will allow the province to fulfill its wind energy target - is complete.
"Wind turbines had a maximum height of 25 meters or so, 30 years ago," said Frans Nederstigt, a spokesman for the provincial government.
"Now they are modern machines of up to 120 meters, with rotors up to 75 meters across - meaning a total height of 180 meters is not exceptional."
Turbines caused noise pollution, he added, saying that sunlight flickering through turbine blades could also be a distracting hazard for drivers.
The ban on future construction, which will probably be approved by the provincial assembly within a few months, drew criticism from the country's Green party which argues that the turbines provide a clean renewable source of energy.
"North Holland's fight against windmills is a fight against the future," said lawmaker Liesbeth van Tongeren, who accused the province of "shutting its eyes" to the polluting effects of fossil fuels.
The country has about 2,000 wind turbines generating more than 2 gigawatts. But renewable energy still contributes less than 4 percent of the country's power needs, well short of the national target of 14 percent by 2020.
Nederstigt said the province was well on its way to meeting national targets however. Future construction would be limited to replacing old units, he added.
"We have about 300 turbines in the province generating about 330 megawatts, meaning North Holland is already a front-runner in wind energy."
The province would continue to allow offshore wind energy developments, he said, even though turbines at sea cost twice as much as their land-based counterparts.
The Netherlands has been a leader in exploiting wind power for centuries. Much of the country's land exists because it was progressively reclaimed from the sea by using wooden windmills to pump water out of low-lying coastal marshes.
(Reporting By Thomas Escritt; Editing by Andrew Osborn)
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