Picturesque Paris rooftops to sprout windmills

PARIS (Reuters) - Paris city authorities are planning to build small wind turbines into one of the world’s most famous skylines to take advantage of the strong winds which sometimes sweep high points such as Montmartre.

The Sacred Heart Basilica (Sacre Coeur) is seen in Paris in this March 4, 2008 file picture. With strong winds sweeping some of Paris high points such as Montmartre, the city's authorities are planning to build small wind turbines on the rooftops of one of the world's most visited cities. REUTERS/Thomas White/Files

“We are not talking of big models like those we see in the countryside. We are in Paris and we musn’t disfigure the landscape,” Denis Baupin, a deputy mayor in charge of sustainable development, told Le Parisien newspaper.

No-one at the Paris townhall was immediately available to comment.

The turbines would be installed on flat rooftops in four neighborhoods, which experience strong winds, he said in the interview published Wednesday.

One of them is Montmartre in northern Paris home to the celebrated Sacre-Coeur Basilica and the Moulin Rouge cabaret, whose name translates as “Red Windmill.”

Jean-Louis Butre, head of the French Federation for Sustainable Environment, which lobbies against large-scale wind power, said turbines in Paris would disfigure the landscape.

“If the plan is to install 15-meter high wind turbines on the roofs, I think we are destroying Paris’ historical heritage and I fear these are utopist solutions,” Butre said.

Integrated systems, such as less visible internal wind turbines in buildings would however be acceptable, he said.

Other capital cities such as London have already installed big wind turbines on their city fringes and a huge turbine is expected to be built for the 2012 Olympic games, the paper said.

The turbines in Paris will produce electricity which will be sold to the state-owned utility EDF or directly used in the buildings where they will be installed, Baupin said.

Baupin said the city’s authorities were also studying setting up water turbines under the capital’s bridges of the Seine river.

“The first tests will start in 2011 or 2012,” he said.

France aims for terrestrial wind energy to reach 20,000 megawatts by 2020, or around 20 percent of current capacity, up from 3,000 MW now.

Reporting by Muriel Boselli; editing by James Jukwey