Three Mayors, three Communities, one wind

This post originally appeared on the EWEA website. It is a part of my Force series focusing on the stories behind wind energy.

 

Rosu Nuti
Mayor of Progresu and Fácáeni
Romania
Population: 7200

Rosu Nuti was born in Progresu and has been the mayor here for 10 years. Her ambitious spirit is apparent the moment she walks in a room and if you need proof of how hard she works, one glance at her overflowing desk should help.

When Rosu first heard about the plan to construct a 44 turbine wind farm in the community, she immediately saw the benefits. However, as is always the case with something new in a community, there was some confusion and pessimism among the citizens.

Rosu spent a lot of energy organising and convincing the village that this was a good idea. Eventually they came around and ground will be broken on the project this year.

For Progresu and Fácáeni the money injected into the local economy will have a clear benefit. Infrastructure here is underdeveloped: roads are poor and horse-and-cart is still the mode of transport for many. Any local jobs that are created will be welcome in a village with an unemployment rate of 45%.

“The earth won’t be able to give us fossil fuels for eternity, and when we take into account the nuclear plant nearby, we prefer to have a field of turbines,” says Rosu.

Valentin Vrabie
Mayor of Pestera
Romania
Population: 3500

Valentin Vrabie is the most popular mayor in Romania. He was awarded a prize for best mayor in Romania and was re-elected with 95% of the vote. He has achieved this distinction not on his own, but with the help of the wind blowing through Pestera.

When wind energy developers came to Pestera, interested in building a 30 turbine farm, Valentin Vrabie seized the opportunity. He immediately opened the doors and did what he could to streamline the process. He understood that the revenue from this project could turn Pe?tera around.

Valentin didn’t believe that the taxes from the wind farm should go to the county office in Constan?a. He successfully lobbied to have the laws changed and the taxes are now flowing into the Pe?tera commune coffers.

The results of this legislative change are apparent everywhere in Pestera. There is a beautiful new park, a new mosque, a new school complete with fibre optic line and new laptops, and a renovated church. Every year large light shows and celebrations attract tens of thousands of people. All this in a period of global crisis mentions Valentin.

Valentin and the community are excited that there is another wind farm coming to Pestera this year. It will make this commune one of the richest in the country. As for Valentin, when he has finished his term in Pe?tera commune he has his political sights set on the county.

Beiu Ion
Mayor of Saligny
Romania
Population: 2300

Beiu Ion was the vice-mayor of Saligny,when the turbines were built. 19 in total, they stand on unused agricultural ground on a hill above the village, surely a sight prettier then the nuclear reactors over the hill in Cernavoda.

Beiu and the villagers were very supportive of the project to build the turbines when initially proposed. The construction was smooth and although there were a few small disputes, when the money started to come in, those concerns were quickly overcome.

That money, approximately €300,000 a year, goes a long way in this little community. When Beiu was elected mayor last year he inherited a community that is transforming. First on Beiu’s list is to ensure all the houses have running water and to pave the roads in Saligny. With a life span of 25 years on the wind farm, the community is looking forward to a future with the wind.

Force – stories behind wind energy

 (Robert van Waarden)

The Force project was born from my belief that by providing examples of positive personal and community stories, we can help grow the renewable energy sectors and avoid the worst consequences of a climate crisis. Force is a series of photographic essays that highlight that wind energy solutions are not an aspect of the future but are a lived reality right now for people and communities all over the world.

This project has proven to be an important and timely vehicle through which to communicate wind energy solutions. Force has been supported by the European Wind Energy Association and the Global Wind Energy Council.

Leading up to Global Wind Day on June 15, 2013, the EWEA will publish one or two new stories each week from the Force project and then exhibited the stories at the European Parliament in June, 2013.

There are two ways to discover the Force stories, explore the map below or visit the image gallery.

 

Bright Future for Wind Energy in Nepal

“I have seen a bright future for wind energy in Nepal, because a lot of wind energy potential has been predicted,” says Aruna Awale, manager of the wind energy department at the Alternative Energy Promotion Centre in Kathmandu, Nepal.

From the window of her office, she can see one of the few operating wind turbines in Nepal. It is a small Maglev vertical access turbine. It turns rapidly in the wind that blows through the Kathmandu valley. It is a sign of more to come if Ms. Awale has anything to do with it.

Ms. Awale works on data and implementation projects, co-ordinates meetings and conferences, and meets with national and international stakeholders. She credits her work for giving her more confidence and a huge amount of experience. She especially enjoys the opportunity to travel internationally for different seminars, the highlight of which is often a visit to a wind farm.

Nepal faces several problems to implement large-scale wind energy, but interestingly, one of those isn’t finance with many development banks, institutions, or companies ready to step forward.  Instead Ms Awale mentions the complex geography and the insufficient infrastructure as the main challenge. The small roads, or entire lack thereof, are often not suited for carrying large equipment to high windy points. The spectacular but difficult geography makes studies and installations more difficult. In order to fully grow in this energy sector, this challenge will have to be surmounted.

Perhaps suggest Ms. Awale, one way to do that is to start smaller. Citing a recent implemented pilot project by the Asian Development Bank, Ms. Awale remains confident that wind energy will have a great impact on small communities in Nepal. In the Dhaubadi BDC of Nawalparasi District, 46 households are now connected to electricity by a small wind turbine. This hastransformed the village and made it the envy of neighbouring villages: now everyone wants a wind turbine.

“With small scale wind energy, thousands of villages can benefit from wind power where no energy is available, not even for lights.” says Ms. Awale.

Ms. Awale has been working at the AEPC for almost a decade and hopes to see some of the available 3000MW potential in Nepal developed, recognizing that it will change the life of many of her fellow Nepalis . For many a Nepali, the answer to electricity problems and the attached poverty issues may simply be blowing in the wind.

This blog post is part 8 of a series of wind energy stories from photographer Robert van Waarden. Next week meet Jaap van der Beek, Netherlands farmer who harvests wind amongst his tulips. 

Megawatts, Community and Development in Thailand

“It represents modernity. So, they want this in their community. Hey we are modern, they say. This is latest technology and we are independent, from Burmese gas and from imported oil. Our energy is produced here with our own resource, that is Wind, zero emissions and we are proud of it.” Nick Suppipat.

Nick Suppipat and the company Wind Enterprise Holdings are on the verge of completing the largest wind farm ever in Thailand. The 207MW wind park is currently being built in the Nakhon Ratchasima district. It is a significant step for the fledging wind industry in the Thailand and an example of how sustainable development can be a win-win.

Six years ago, oil prices were skyrocketing and Thailand was in the midst of a financial crisis. Nick, an investor since he was 17, was convinced that renewable energy would be the next big thing and figured that wind is going to take the biggest share of that. For him, the business case made sense and he jumped in.

“So I started looking for an appropriate site. At the time according to local research, we didn’t have wind resource. So I took a serious look into that research and found out that it is not reliable,” says Nick.

Nick hired an American company to develop a hi-resolution wind map and discovered that Thailand did have some wind resources, not as good as some European countries, but enough for modern wind turbines. Since then, the business has grown quickly and beyond his expectations. Six years ago he wouldn’t have dreamed of 500MW. Now they are months away from completing 207MW and have their sights set on over 1000MW and expansion internationally.

Nick believes that with the current tariff there is 2000 – 3000 MW feasible in Thailand for wind farm development. It is important to remember that the number of households this will provide energy for is many times greater than in higher energy consumption areas of North America or Europe.

From their new office on the top floor of a Bangkok skyscraper, it may perhaps be easy to forget about the farming community directly affected by this development. But Nick and his team have made community development a key aspect of their business.

“We want to make a difference in the area. We don’t want to make money and then not care about people around. We want to ensure that their lives improved and the area becomes a model community,” says Nick

When asked if there has been any objection from the community. “None, zero,” says Nick, “That surprised me. I never heard anyone complain or think it is ugly or think that it is un-cool.”

Wind Energy Holdings is giving back to the community in several ways. Beyond the regulated mandatory yearly payment to the community, they are providing a second voluntary yearly payment of 2- 3% of the revenue. Additionally, they are establishing a NGO for community development, the first project of which is improved irrigation.

All around the construction site are visible examples of how this wind farm is positively impacting the community. The temples are being fitted with new roofs or renovated entirely. The roads, which were once impassable in the rainy season, have been rebuilt, reducing transport costs, time and headaches for the farmers. Additionally, a policy to hire local people and contractors has ensured valuable employment for hundreds if not thousands of Thais. Nick estimates that over 15,000 people have or will directly benefit from this project.

By the end of 2015 Wind Energy Holdings expects to have over 500MW operating in Thailand. After that, they are looking internationally and if this same model of development continues, it will mean win-win for communities and for business.

This blog post is part 7 of a series of wind energy stories from photographer Robert van Waarden. Next week meet Aruna Awale, a woman leading the path towards wind energy at the  Alternative Energy Promotion Center in Kathmandu. 

Co-operative Wind Energy in Ireland Builds Strong Community Spirit

Like many others, Pat Blount’s life changed on a barstool. Striking up a conversation with the individual beside him, Pat was soon deep in discussion with a representative from wind turbine manufacture Vestas. Pat proceeded to pepper his new companion with question after question about the wind industry and when he left that bar, he set off on a path that would change himself and at least one community along the way.

A man of the outdoors and the mountains, Pat always cared about energy conservation and the natural world. His discussion on that bar stool was the push he needed to take the plunge. He dove headfirst into the wind industry and identified possible wind sites across Ireland. One of these was in Collon. After checking the grid access to the Collon wind site, he found the landowners and invited them to join his business venture. Pat agreed to take the financial risk, if they provided the land and they would be equal owners of the business.

Initially, the landowners P.J. and Gerry were skeptical about this opportunity and this strange man who wanted to build on their hill. It took some time for them to come around to the idea, but eventually it was too good  an opportunity for them to pass up.

In the UK and Ireland, windmills are reportedly often greeted with animosity from individuals and communities because of beliefs that they are noisy and spoil the view. However, the trio has encountered no resistance from the community on the project. Pat explains, “I very much put that down to the fact that the landowners are real owners of the wind farm with me. They have extended families, all living in the area. In cases where big corporate entities move into a rural area to develop a project, be it a wind farm or other projects, there is huge scepticism. Generally a large number of people object, but when they know the individuals involved on a personal level, they meet them at football or social events, people don’t like to object to neighbours that they know well.”

“I was overwhelmed by the level of goodwill and support that we got. I remember the first turbine when it was being lifted into place, I counted about 120 people just sitting in the field, it was almost like a picnic, a day out. We ended up with a very large community that is very supportive of wind energy. In fact over the last number of years, I have seen quite a few of the small, 1 – 3 KW household turbines in this area. You wouldn’t see as many in a cluster in other parts of the country.”

Now, Pat, P.J. and Gerry are enthusiastically working on the expansion of their project. But in the meantime, these fast friends take an afternoon break, sitting on the gate in the sun watching the wind turbines spin steadily, silently in the wind.

This blog post is part 6 of a series of wind energy stories. Next week meet Nick Suppiat, a man on the verge of completing Thailand’s largest wind farm. 

 

Orthodox Community Embraces Renewable Energy in the Czech Republic

High on a windmill, hidden amongst the cherry orchards and the wheat fields of Eastern Czech Republic, is a painting of a raven with a piece of bread in its’ mouth. The prophet St. Elias the Tishbite was kept alive by ravens feeding him bread when he was hidden in the desert. This is the St. Elias windmill and it belongs to the Pravoslavná Akademie Vilémov, a non-profit Orthodox NGO specialized in renewable energy.

“Everything was given to us by God to survive,’ says Roman Juriga, director of the Akademie, “that includes the energy and the capacity to create energy, that is why we have named our turbine St. Elias.” 

Roman Juriga, is a devout member of the Orthodox Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia. He grew up in communist Czechoslovakia as an atheist as ordered by state decree. Outspoken and anti-communist, secretly he studied English, and secured entrance to an international English school where he received a better education. Joining the Orthodox Church he was encouraged by leaders to attend University to study theology. He objected: the government knew he was anti-communist and if they discovered him studying, he would be thrown out. The Church offered their protection. Luckily, just as the authorities got wind of his studying, the 1989 Velvet Revolution happened and communism in Czechoslovakia disintegrated.

After successfully completing his education, Mr Juriga established the Akademie, with the support of the church and Orthodox Monastery, in the little village of Vilemov. Through small scale solar, wind, and hydro power, the Akademie educates kids and adults about renewable energy and climate change. The reaction has been incredibly positive from all groups, especially the secondary school students. Many of them say that the information provided by the Akademie is in complete disagreement with the information provided to the schools by theTemelin Nuclear Plant.

Members of the Monastery and village are very proud of the installations. Additionally, several new solar thermal installations that were inspired by the Akademie have sprung up in the community, an anomaly for this area of the country. The Akademie offers free consultancy on renewable energy for other churches and church-related NGO’s. All this is made possible from the revenue from the 100kw St. Elias turbine.

Mr. Juriga has been instrumental in shining some light on the complicated world of clean energy bureaucracy in the Czech Republic. The approval process for small energy production is very difficult to navigate. Complicated submission procedures and reams of paper work protect the vested interests of fossil fuels, politicians and corporations. Mr. Juriga has become something of an expert in negotiating the submissions process and his successes have become examples and inspirations for others across the Czech Republic.

Wind energy in the Czech Republic is lagging compared to Western Europe. This is partially due to propaganda by invested fossil fuel interests. However, Mr. Juriga recognizes that it is a natural progression for a church to move in the direction of small-scale energy production and that it is essential to the development of a post carbon world. He also believes that as the Czechs look to Germany and see the rapid deployment of clean energy, the future will look different in the Czech Republic.

This blog post is part 1 of a series of wind energy stories from photographer Robert van Waarden. Next week meet Piet Willem Chevalier, Dutch mechanical engineer, bringing small-scale wind energy to Mali.

Force – Jaap van der Beek

My newest photography project, Force, is a focus on the human side of wind energy. It demonstrates that wind energy it is not an aspect of the future but a lived reality right now for people and communities all over the world. This is the second in a series of posts (read the first here) to introduce these wind energy heroes. Partially supported by the GWEC, contact me if you wish to publish or support this project.


Force Wind Energy - Jaap van der Beek“Als ik alleen met aardappelen en uien bezig zou zijn, dan hoefde ik voor de rest niet zo veel mensen te spreken.” Jaap van der Beek (If I only grew potatoes and onions, then I wouldn’t speak with so many other people.)

Jaap van der Beek is a businessman, a farmer and a pilot in Middenmeer, the Netherlands. Like many farmers in North Holland, he harvests tulips, potatoes, onions, and wind energy. For over 15 years he has been involved with harvesting the power from the wind and his 850kw turbine powers hundreds of homes.

He speaks passionately about the impact that wind energy has had on his life. Perhaps first and foremost, above the financial gain, is the sense of community gained from involvement with wind energy. Owning a wind turbine has connected him with the other solitary wind turbine owners in North Holland and with the industry as a whole. He is a member of the implementation commission with the Netherlands Wind Energy Association and member of the WindUnie co-operative. He works tirelessly to promote and grow the wind energy sector in the Netherlands.

Currently Mr. van der Beek is working on a building a new turbine. “I am a business man, therefore I want to move on, I want to go bigger, better. To stand still is to go back,” he says. However, due to new planning regulations, van der Beek’s proposed 3.5MW turbine must be placed at another location in the polder in line with other turbines. He is currently working with other windmill and land owners in North Holland to secure a location for this collection of wind mills. He has been busy for 5 years on this project, an inordinate amount of time considering it takes about 2 months to actually install a windmill. All across Europe it seems the long planning and permit process is hindering the quick implementation of clean renewable energy.

For now, as the project continues development, van der Beek will work with the seasons, the tulips will grow and he will continue to implement wind energy solutions on his farm and in his life.