What if there were plans to put up six, 270 meter high, wind turbine in your backyard? The tallest wind turbine to exist on shore? Are you still as excited about renewable energy? In Culemborg, a relatively small city in the Netherlands, there were plans to do exactly that. “Wind turbines this high are nowhere else in the world yet. The idea that we’d place these in our small city, is ridiculous.”
Astrid Huijgen is one of the farmers that would have one of those wind turbines close to her farm. She’s also part of Tegenwind Culemborg, an action group that stands up for the interests of the inhabitants of Culemborg, regarding the placement of wind turbines. “We’re not against renewable energy,” Huijgen says, “but the highest wind turbines in the world right now are in Rotterdam with a height of 260 meters. And those are nowhere near as close to a residential area. We don’t want to be lab rats for such a project.” Her biggest concerns are the low noise that the wind turbines produce, but also the view, the shadow flicker (the flickering effect caused by the rotating wind turbine blades, through for example windows of people living nearby), the fact that her house will be worth way less, and so on.
According to Hylke Jelsma, project developer at Eneco, a Dutch energy company and one of the initiators of this project, the concerns of the civilians are taken into account. The company has looked into multiple options, varying from turbines with a 210 meters (top) height, to 270 meters. “However, the placement of six turbines with a height of 270 meters seemed to be the best option. They generate the most energy and are most cost-effective.” Jelsma understands the possible fears that people have because the turbines are ‘new’ and not placed elsewhere yet, “However, these technologies improve a lot. This means that even though the wind turbines are bigger, that does not mean they’re also louder. They still have to meet the same conditions as the smaller ones.”
According to research from Bosch & van Rijn, aconsultancy for renewable energy in the Netherlands, putting nine ‘smaller’ wind turbines in the same area (210 meters high), will result in more noise pollution for the nearby residents, than the six turbines with a height of 270 meters.
Regarding the shadow flicker, Eneco has a policy that the people in the area shouldn’t be bothered by it for more than thirty minutes a year. “The only thing that we can’t really help is that the wind turbines will indeed be more prominent in the landscape than smaller ones”, Jelsma adds, “However, whether or not people think it looks nice, remains subjective. But wind turbines in general won’t be a new thing for Culemborg, as it already has three of them.”
The three wind turbines mentioned by Jelsma are a bit smaller: 120 meters. Over half the height the (highest) new wind turbines would be. See the picture on the right for size comparison (please note that the 270 meter turbine is edited in).
For now it seems like the plans are temporarily off the table to place the (270 meter) wind turbines, but will continue after the upcoming regional elections in the Netherlands in March. “Hopefully we can come up with a solution that suits everyone”, Astrid Huijgen concludes, “We’re willing to look into other options, such as solar panels.”
Whether or not Eneco and the other energy suppliers still think the project is viable, is uncertain. However, Jelsma remains hopeful: “We need to reach certain goals: in Culemborg, in the Netherlands, but also in the world in general when it comes to sustainable energy. In the Netherlands it’s a bit harder when it comes to finding enough space to place these turbines. Especially around this area it’s exceptional to be able to place six of them. I think it would be a shame to let that opportunity go to waste.”
A similar process has been going on in Gent, Belgium, where there were possible plans to place the highest wind turbines of Belgium specifically. At the start of 2021 energy company Engie and recycle company Renewi got a permit to place turbines as high as 242 meter, which would be the highest turbine in Belgium. Similar to Culemborg, there were already (smaller) turbines in the city. Also similar to Culemborg, the citizens of Wondelgem were not happy with the plans. For now the plans are off the table there as well, but Engie and Renewi look into the possibilities, just like Eneco is doing back in the Netherlands.