Eco group fights Bern over wind farm plans

An environmental organization has joined the Swiss People’s Party in opposing the government’s ‘energy strategy 2050’ over fears plans for more wind farms could damage the Swiss countryside.

Eco group fights Bern over wind farm plans
There are currently more than 30 wind farms in Switzerland. Photo: Alpiq

The government’s new strategy, a draft of which was approved in parliament in September, promises a new focus on renewable energy as the country looks to move away from nuclear power.

But the proposed development of wind farms in Switzerland has worried Paysage Libre Suisse, which said in a statement on Wednesday that rural areas would be “transformed into industrial zones”.

Under the new law, the federal government can declare any new wind farm in the national interest, even in protected zones and regardless of its output, its size or its effects on the countryside, it said.

“The countryside is not renewable!” said the environmental lobby group, calling wind turbines “gigantic and destructive” machines that kill birds and cause people health problems including depression and headaches. 

As a result it is supporting the Swiss People’s Party (SVP) in its attempts to force a referendum on the energy strategy.

The populist SVP launched its campaign in early October, saying that the government’s attempts to pull the plug on nuclear power and increase renewable energy were “irresponsible and invasive”.

The SVP is the only political party to oppose the energy strategy.

The party has the support of some associations and businesses, including Swissmem, which represents the machine, electrical and metal industries.

It has until January 19th to gather the necessary signatures to force a referendum.

According to the Swiss federal energy office there are more than 30 wind power plants in Switzerland, the largest, in the Jura, containing 16 wind turbines.

Currently wind power only provides around 0.15 percent of Switzerland’s electricity consumption, though the energy strategy 2050 estimates that could be increased 40-fold.

In November the Swiss public will vote in another referendum which proposes bringing forward Switzerland’s nuclear power switch-off.

The initiative, backed by the Green Party, would see three of Switzerland’s nuclear reactors closed as soon as next year.

However the federal government is against the proposal, feeling the country needs more time to develop alternative power sources before it decommissions Switzerland's five nuclear power stations.

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