How do you collaborate with the local community?
Over the last few years, we have contributed funding to activities for school orchestras, sports clubs, local churches, schools and kindergartens, revues, theatre groups and seniors’ centres. Total sponsorship of the local community amounts to around NOK 400,000 annually.
Being a future-oriented business with an environmental focus, it is important for us to make use of local services and work partners in Fitjar and Sunnhordland. The construction of excellent road infrastructure has also made local mountain areas readily accessible to more people and we have demonstrated, not least through Midtfjellet Day, that wind power can be developed and natural forces harnessed to the benefit of local communities.
Midtfjellet Vindpark is also used for educational purposes by the university, as well as by undergraduates, doctoral students and researchers.
Who owns the mountain area?
We lease the area for the duration of the contractual period, remunerating landowners on the basis of profits made from energy production.
Who owns Midtfjellet Vindkraft AS?
Midtfjellet Vindkraft AS has a solid local fundament in terms of ownership, through Fitjar Kraftlag, and representation on the Board. Our largest three owners are financial investors, whose funds are administered by one of Europe’s foremost companies in the field of renewable energy, Aquila Capital. They have demonstrated great interest in the local community and have been an important source of contributions to a number of projects benefitting the local population.
How large an income does Midtfjellet Vindkraft AS provide to the local community?
At Midtfjellet, we have shown that it is possible to combine green energy with potential growth in local business activity, jobs and tax revenues for the local community. Activities in and around the wind park generate considerable wealth every year.
The property tax we pay has been voluntarily agreed at a rate of 7 parts per thousand of funds invested. This alone amounts to about NOK 11 million annually, which can be funnelled into important social facilities such as kindergartens, schools, nursing homes and other good causes.
Midtfjellet Vindkraft AS has two permanent employees, one of whom is based in Fitjar. In addition, we have an agreement with Nordex, whose 11 local employees undertake annual maintenance of the wind turbines. Each and every one of these contributes tax revenues to Fitjar and the Municipality of Stord. Midtfjellet Vindkraft AS also hires two further local employees and more when necessary.
In less windy periods during the spring and summer, when the turbines are not at full capacity, we hire in further expertise for a raft of activities including, for example, rotor-blade inspection and elevator checks.
This means there are well over 20 people engaged at Midtfjellet. And this is not just of benefit to the company; hotels and guest houses, restaurants, shop-owners, taxi drivers and other local service providers all stand to gain from the increased activity.
Local entrepreneurs and suppliers have been important in building the park and the excellent infrastructure associated with it.
At the same time, landowners in Midtfjellet gain a secondary income from wind power. Annual remuneration is based on wind power earnings. In addition, the landowners have been given a one-off payment for allowing us to develop wind power on their property.
Is land-based wind power financially viable?
New wind power facilities employ extremely advanced technologies that generate profit without support through the green certificate scheme or any other kind of subsidy. This means that wind power plants may now be subject to taxation, providing host municipalities with guaranteed income.
Wind power has previously received support in the shape of so-called green certificates. The relevant legislation was adopted by the Norwegian parliament in 2011 and the last opportunity to be covered by the scheme is set to 2021. Any wind parks completed after 2021 will not be able to benefit from the scheme.
Midtfjellet Vindkraft AS is entitled to support from the scheme for construction phases 2 and 3. For construction phase 1, Midtfjellet Vindkraft AS received around NOK 334 million from Enova.
Support received by Midtfjellet Vindkraft AS through the green certificate scheme is thus limited in practice.
In what ways have you made arrangements for outdoor activities in the Midtfjellet area?
Excellent infrastructure in the area eases access for hiking, cycling, uphill racing, orienteering, ski trips, hunting, fishing, camping and much more. In addition, the wind park is an exciting attraction in itself. Over the years, we have established a fruitful collaboration with the local authorities, landowners, sports associations and others in the local community.
With a number of other interested parties, Midtfjellet Vindpark has put a whole range of popular initiatives into action:
- Midtfjellet Vindpark arranges guided tours for nursing homes, kindergartens, universities, schools and other institutions, as well as for businesses and politicians. There have been around 17,000 visitors since commissioning.
- Change of status through public regulation of 2.5 km supply road (from the main road to the wind park) to public road to make it easier for more people to access the trails on Midtfjellet.
- Construction of a parking area for 100-150 cars at the entrance to the wind park to facilitate use of the area.
- Procurement of vehicles for ski-trail preparation and mountain rescue services.
- Annual organisation of Midtfjellet Day and annual half-marathon together with Fitjar Sports Association. This is a two-day popular event with walking tours, orienteering, uphill racing, a half-marathon and other running events. Activities of national interest have also been organised.
- Landowners have gained better access to their land and have prepared the ground for cultivation in certain areas. Landowners are well on the way with further plans for the area.
- Midtfjellet Vindkraft AS has restored a number of mountain cabins in the wind park, which are now available for hire to the local community.
- Through collaboration with Stord and Fitjar Tourist Associations, the Municipality of Fitjar and other local interests, we have established 2.5 km of lighted ski-trail, starting from the car park, as well as an open tent for outdoor activities.
Will there be much noise from the turbines?
Noise to housing varies from 36 decibels to 44-45 decibels in a limited area. The recommended limit is 45 decibels. We have carried out multiple noise measurements around the wind park that show stable noise conditions below the recommended maximum level.
How will you ensure that the landscape is returned to its original condition?
One of the conditions of the concession is that Midtfjellet Vindkraft AS shall, in the twelfth year of operations, begin to set aside funds for the dismantling of the turbines and the removal of footings, roads and installation sites from the landscape.
We know that we are utilising the landscape but also that we only have it on loan. That is why we have made sure to design the facility as sensitively as possible so that we can return the landscape with the smallest possible footprint to the next generation. We have stored electronic data showing the exact topography of the area before installation of the turbines began. This can be downloaded to the excavators used for restoring the area. We also have previous experience of such work. Among other things, we have returned a 180 metre-long road back to nature so that the area looks just as it did before the road was established.
What happens to the turbines when they have been dismantled?
It takes two days to take a turbine down and have it driven to Kværner’s base at Eldøyane, Stord, for dismantling. The various parts are then distributed for recycling.
How large an area has been used for wind power?
Why do we need renewable energy?
Extreme weather events, flooding and droughts affect people around the world and in Norway, too. The dry summer of 2018 was very difficult for farmers. In 2019, we have seen how heavy downpours can create flooding, landslips and avalanches in both urban and rural areas.
The UN International Panel on Climate Change’s report shows how the difference between a 1.5 and 2 degree increase in temperature will negatively impact ecosystems, people and society around the world. The Panel concluded that the world must significantly change course in order to avoid the serious consequences to nature, the environment and society.
There is no simple solution to the climate crisis but, if we are to succeed, we know that renewable sources of energy will be essential. Greenhouse gas emissions from human activity have already brought about a 1 degree Celsius rise in average global temperature. 70% of emissions come from burning fossil fuels. To solve the climate crisis, renewable energy must replace fossil energy sources.
How much more renewable energy do we need?
In Norway, we already have a great deal of hydro-electric power but we continue to use large amounts of oil and gas in industry and the transport sector. About half of our primary energy use is still reliant on fossil fuels. In the coming years, as we aim to reduce emissions from fossil energy sources, we will need more renewable energy from water, wind and the sun.
Today in Norway, we produce about 130 TWh of renewable energy. According to Statnett, we will need between 20 to 40% more energy to electrify construction and businesses, industry and transport. If we are also to get shipping, air transport and the petroleum sector over to renewable power, the production of renewable energy must increase by up to 70%.
Norway´s UN climate target is to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030 (compared with the level in 1990). Norway is committed to a 40% cut in the transport, construction, agriculture and waste disposal sectors by 2030. There is also good reason to expect that such targets will be made even stricter both in the EU and in Norway.
Why can’t we move wind parks out to sea?
If we are to replace oil and gas in Norway with renewable energy, we need all the energy we can get from wind, water and the sun. Wind power on land has enormous potential in Norway and has proved to be extremely competitive compared with other energy production in recent years.
Offshore wind may gradually become a supplement to land-based wind power but there is a long way to go before floating sea-wind installations as a concept become mature and profitable. We already have suitable technology – apart from floating sites – but it will take time to employ this technology in new areas of use. For the time being, floating offshore wind power is very much more expensive and the technology remains untested for use in Norwegian waters. Both Denmark and the UK have maritime areas available for bottom-fixed wind turbines, but the cost of developing floating offshore wind in Norwegian waters is far beyond that of onshore wind power or bottom-fixed wind turbines and will require substantial subsidisation. Offshore wind power also requires large areas on land for bringing power onshore and for other technical infrastructure.
Why can we not just upgrade our hydro-electric plants?
We actually need up to 70% more renewable energy to be able to get construction, business, industry, transport, shipping, air transport and the petroleum sector over to electricity from renewable sources.