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06 April 2010

French feathers ruffled over wind farming dispute

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In France, a controversial planned increase in the number of wind farms has rubbed some residents the wrong way. Now a newly commissioned parliamentary report has criticized the way wind farms are financed

France has between 2,000 and 2,500 wind farms, far fewer than its neighbors Germany or Spain. However, the government has ambitious plans to build 8,000 more over the next decade, as part of a strategy to reduce carbon emissions in accordance with the Kyoto climate change agreement.

But in many parts of the country, people are unhappy with the wind farms that already exist.

In Picardy, a sparsely populated region of northern France and home to 600 wind turbines, resident Virginie Mitburst can see 11 from her home. "This room has the pleasure of being lit up every night by the lights flashing on the wind turbines," Mitburst told French public radio. "It's like a night club in here." Mitburst said she thinks wind farm companies played on people's fears to push the concept of wind power, which she says have turned the countryside into an industrial zone.

"The wind power companies come round telling people they have to have these things because of the Kyoto agreement… and if we don't have wind turbines we're all going to die," Mitburst said.

Environmental concern isn't the only reason many people have embraced wind farms - private landowners who agree to allow wind farms on their property received about 15,000 euros ($20,000) a year. Local councils can expect 30,000 euros ($40,000) a year for renting their land to wind energy firms.


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