Wind Turbines a No-Go Thanks to Defiant Neighborhoods

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By Isabelle Lichtenstein

 

If you ask an American about the Netherlands, the first thing they’ll talk about is almost always the windmill. A staple of Dutch culture for centuries, they’ve done more than just look pretty; these bladed buildings have helped the nation turn any raw material into a tradable product. Nowadays, many of these classic windmills are still in use, but they’re not the ones harnessing the wind; on the contrary, the Netherlands now welcome a much more modern energy producing machine: the wind turbine.

 

Standing anywhere from 200 to 400 feet tall, the massive turbines are slowly taking over Dutch landscapes, inserting themselves into the grassy fields. However, these machines are the newest solution and problem for the Netherlands.

 

With wind farms popping up across the country, citizens are voicing their concerns over the look of the machines and how they fit into the Dutch skyline. Because of the opposition, wind turbines are facing a catch-22: does the nation press forward with the turbines in an effort to hit its renewable energy goal, or does it halt for the beauty of the country?

 

Gijs van Kuik, head of the wind institute at Delft University, says that the resistance comes from seaside communities that feel the sight of the metal machine does not contribute to the beauty of their neighborhood. Tall, sleek, and beaming silver, many feel that the modern machine looks too out of place in such a traditional small town atmosphere.

 

In fact, just last year, the Volkskrant reported that councils from five different seaside resort areas, including Wassenaar and Zandvoort, had given money totaling over €85,000 to campaigns that were actively against the expansion of offshore wind farms.

 

“Just because there is a bit of resistance from neighborhoods won’t stop the country from expanding wind energy,” Van Kuik insists. “In politics, there is always push back. I have a strong idea of certainty that the Netherlands will hit their mark.”

 

According to European sustainability measures, a nation must reach 20% final energy consumption by 2020, but, with total renewable production at 3,379 megawatts in 2016, the Netherlands is only at a third of the projected goal and is not expected to hit that goal until at least 2023.

 

With over ten wind farms currently active in the country, and 100% of trains running on wind energy, it seems almost impossible that the Netherlands is not hitting the EU mark; however, the nation surprisingly only produced 6% of electricity from wind power in 2015. So what is causing the push and pull within the nation’s border?

 

Van Kuik points toward the fact that 153 turbines were raised in 2015 for examples to his claim that the country is still progressively moving towards sustainability; this is a record-breaking number that brings the total to 2,200 over the country.

Marijn van der Pas, a spokesperson for the Netherlands Wind Energy Association, points out that while it seems like a small amount, it is indeed a step forward for the nation.

 

“While the increase seems miniscule, many of the existing turbines have a smaller capacity than that of the new ones,” she says.

 

Van der Pas also noted that the new wind machines will power enough energy for over 2.5 million households, raising the capacity by 20%, despite the overall total being so low.

 

However, one of the reasons that the new wind turbines are able to produce such a leap in energy is because of their height, not their power. In fact, 15% of wind turbines in the Netherlands are taller than 315 feet, yet they account for 34% of the wind power production.

 

Van der Pas noted that while the height may be a factor, all that matters is that the energy needed is being produced, no matter how it needs to get done.

 

“It may sound silly that we’re going for height,” said van der Pas, “but the fact of the matter is that height is power with turbines. Many of the winds we would like to harness come from higher up in the sky. We need that [wind] to be able to hit our energy goal.”

 

The Netherlands says that their aim is to produce about 16% of all energy used from sustainable sources, but there’s a problem: although the nation is working hard to increase its wind energy production, there has been little to no effort to reduce non-renewable energy sources.

 

Coal-burning power plants, for example, have, much like wind energy, actually seen an increase in total electricity consumption. The use jumped from 19% in 2010 to 35% in 2015, according to the Dutch National Institute for Statistics.

 

With non-sustainable energy production continuing to grow, and with the failure to hit the EU sustainability mark with wind energy, the Netherlands seems almost at a standstill with where to go. It seems almost contradictory to pride itself on sustainable energy, despite coal-burning power plants finding a rise.

 

But, the nation seems assured in its forward progression in the field of wind energy; the goal still stands at 20% by 2020.

 

Although the main problem facing the wind turbines is a lack of acceptance, the Netherlands also faces a variety of elements that need to be addressed while moving forward with renewable energy procedures.

 

Whether it be through more turbines, those positioned higher up, or turbines placed in Dutch backyards, the country seems ready to buckle down and continue to grow their wind energy production.

 

With all eyes on the nation, the Dutch must power through to power their country.

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