Europe’s largest wind energy project must soon vanish into thin air. A court declares the construction of two wind farms in western Norway to be illegal. The reason: The facilities violate the rights of indigenous people because their reindeer herds feel disturbed.
Indigenous reindeer herders in western Norway have celebrated a legal victory in the dispute over two large wind farms. The Supreme Court ruled that the permits to build and operate the facilities were invalid because they violated the rights of the Sami ethnic group and violated the UN civil pact.
The international agreement states that members of ethnic minorities should not be denied the right to “cultivate their own cultural life together with other members of their group”. According to the court, the traditional rearing of reindeer by the Sami is a cultural practice worth protecting.
The consequences of the judgment initially remained unclear. After the court decision, the reindeer herder lawyers demanded the demolition of the 151 wind turbines, some of which are on the pastures for the reindeer. “Its construction has been declared illegal and it would be illegal to continue operating it,” said lawyer Andreas Bronner, who represented a group of shepherds in the process.
Judgment relevant to other wind farms
The operator of the wind farm said he was “surprised” by the verdict. The plants were built on the basis of official permits. The rights of the reindeer herders also played an important role in the decision-making process, said the company Fosen Vind. The energy ministry now has to make a decision.
Initially, the government did not want to draw any conclusions from the judgment. A spokesman for the Department of Energy merely said that the court’s decision “required clarification of the situation”. The next steps will be informed at a later date.
The wind farms in Storheia and Roan are part of Europe’s largest land-based wind energy project, which has a volume of 1.12 billion euros. The developer of the wind turbines, Fosen Vind, owns the majority of the Storheia wind farm. The company is partly owned by Statkraft, TroenderEnergi and Nordic Wind Power DA. In addition to a consortium for energy infrastructure, the Swiss energy company BKW is also involved in the wind farm. The wind farm in Roan is operated by Roan Vind. This company belongs to Stadtwerke München, TroenderEnergie and Nordic Wind Power. The judgment could also have consequences for other projects, said lawyer Hurum. “This will have an impact on later developments within the Sami reindeer area. It is certainly relevant for other wind farms, but also for mines and other large development projects, for example road construction.”