No More Windmills?
A province in Holland may ban new wind-power projects
Amsterdam is in a region of the Netherlands known as Holland. (Jim McMahon)
Wind power is an important part of Dutch history and culture. For centuries, people who live in the Netherlands have used windmills to power farmwork. But that tradition may soon change, as modern windmills, called wind turbines, may no longer be welcome in some parts of the country.
Some people have complained that the turbines—used to create electricity—are big, noisy, and ugly. The government of North Holland, a province that includes the capital city of Amsterdam, is looking to ban additional windmill projects.
“People don’t want big wind turbines in their backyards,” says Kasper Wallet, an energy expert. “They think it will impact the value of their property.” Traditional windmills are relatively short—no more than a few stories high. But wind turbines have to be large to catch a lot of wind. They can stand as tall as a 30-story building.
Critics also point out that generating power from wind turbines costs more than it does to do so from power plants that use fossil fuels. These are fuels, like oil and coal, that are burned to produce energy. Wind turbines also cause a danger to birds and other flying animals that sometimes fly into the turbine blades and die.
Supporters of wind power point out that wind turbines are about as efficient in creating electricity as one large coal-fired plant. And unlike burning fossil fuels, harnessing wind energy does not cause pollution. Wind is also a renewable resource—that means there’s always more of it. Fossil fuels are nonrenewable resources, and one day they will run out.
THE POWER OF WIND
The Netherlands wants renewable energy to meet 14 percent of its total energy needs by 2020. But with only 2,000 wind turbines in the country today, renewable energy production meets only 4 percent of the Netherlands’ energy needs. The recent opposition to wind turbines will make it much more difficult to reach the 2020 goal.
Many environmentalists (people who work to protect the environment) are unhappy with the government in Amsterdam. They say government leaders are shutting their eyes to the dangerous pollution caused by fossil fuels. Not only can that pollution hurt the environment, but it can also be a direct threat to people’s health.
Liesbeth van Tongeren, a Dutch lawmaker, has spoken out against the potential ban on windmills. “North Holland’s fight against windmills,” she says, “is a fight against the future.”