Norway to build wind farm despite concerns of reindeer herders

OSLO (Reuters) - Norway said on Friday it would build a wind park in an area used for reindeer grazing despite U.N. calls to suspend the project to study the impact on the indigenous herders’ livelihoods.

FILE PHOTO: Sami reindeer herder Nils Mathis Sara, 60, drives his ATV as he follows a herd of reindeer on the Finnmark Plateau, Norway, June 16, 2018. REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov

The Petroleum and Energy Ministry said it would proceed with the 288 megawatt (MW) Storheia wind park, which is part of Europe’s largest onshore wind power project being developed by the Fosen Vind consortium.

The group, owned by TroenderEnergi, Statkraft and the Nordic Wind Power consortium, is building six wind farms with combined capacity of 1,057 MW at a cost of 11 billion crowns ($1.26 billion).

“After careful consideration, the ministry has concluded that there is no basis for stopping the (building) of the Storheia wind turbines,” the ministry said in a statement.

In a Dec. 10 letter, the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination asked Norway to suspend the project so it could examine a complaint that the project would disturb reindeer herding, a traditional activity of the Sami people.

Reindeer herders have said the sight and sound of the turbines in the park, to be built in an area on Norway’s northwest coast used as pastures during winter months, could frighten the animals.

The ministry said Norway tried to address U.N. requests but would disregard it on this occasion after the wind farm had passed all domestic legal checks.

Most of the infrastructure was already completed so turbines could be installed between April and August, the ministry said.

Storheia will have 80 wind turbines of 3.6 MW each, constructed by Vestas and is due to be commissioned in 2019. The whole project will be completed in 2020.

Statkraft owns 52.1 percent of the consortium, followed by the Nordic Power group with 40 percent and TroenderEnergi with 7.9 percent.

Editing by Gwladys Fouche and Edmund Blair