Locals unhappy with Valmiera-Valka wind park plan

Why has one of Latvia's most beautiful forests been chosen for the construction of the “Valmiera-Valka” wind park? The local population has expressed confusion and started collecting signatures on Manabalss.lv against the creation of this park, Latvian Radio reported on December 1.

“We can imagine – we are driving, and now we have 60 TV towers between Valmiera and Strenči,” Armands Broks, a Valmiera resident, said

“The size of one wind turbine is planned to be 200 meters high, which is similar to the Valmiera television tower, which is 204 metrts high, plus we're still putting another 100 meters up, which will be the rotor blade,” he said.

Armands Broks is also the initiator of the initiative on the platform “Manabalss” to review the construction of wind farms in Latvian forests.

“This area from the Strenči toward Valka is part of the Ziemeļgauja protected landscape area, it's on my value scale one of the pearls of Vidzeme with its unique nature, with the Cirgaļu dunes that partially fit into the area, there's also a very high diversity of plants, different bird and animal species,” says Broks.

Even more worried are residents of homes in the area.

“We will see it from our house, those towers all around us, we only have the northern windows without those great skyscrapers,” says Solvita Miezīte, a resident of Valka civil parish.

She said the concern is how giant wind turbines will affect the environment, animals and whether or not they will endanger human health.

“They are planned so many, but how they will interact with each other, how all those low sound frequencies will leave an impact on health, let alone animals. I am not against technology, against the need for electricity, but not that number in this small area of land,” says Miezīte.

Other residents of Valka civil parish are also worried about how the construction of these giant towers and later operation will affect the environment and also quality of life:

“First of all, the noise, the other thing that worries me, nature, animals, because I have grouse near my house. There are plenty of open places in Latvia that can be found, degraded areas, where such large forests do not need to be destroyed.”

This project is being implemented by “Latvian wind parks”. When asked why this pine forest array is chosen for the wind farm, Valdis Kalns, board Member of the joint stock company “Latvian State Forests”, said that only 27% of Latvia's forest areas can be suitable for wind parks.

“More than 70 percent of Latvia's state forest area has already been completely excluded from any potential exploration of wind farms, whether they are existing environmental protection restrictions or it is population,” Kalns explained.

“We've been through the fact that overall, on average, the public wants a lot of things, but just not outside my backyard, agricultural land is also regarded as a high value, which cannot be occupied by wind turbines, now what is left in Latvia, remembering that we are still in sync with the Russian energy system… So only forest areas are left,” said Kalns.

The Nature Conservation Agency (DAP) explains that the environmental impact assessment process has been initiated and experts have already carried out research on both birds and habitats in previous seasons, and this research will continue.

However, the director of the DAP, Gita Strode, is also wary of assessing the construction of a wind farm in the forest.

“The report should evaluate complex all related impacts, this is not the only wind farm, there are several projects happening right now, several evaluations, the number of projects is close to two dozen right now,” Strode says.

“We're not excited from a conservation standpoint about wind farms being built in forest areas, it's not something where there's a lot of experience in the world either, we look with concern at this, if indeed all these projects are to be carried out, then this could have a negative impact on the natural values as a whole,” said the DAP head.

Locals also say that project promoters should explain what the benefits of this idea are if there is so much to lose.

A week ago, a public consultation meeting on the planned wind farm was held via videoconference, with another public consultation next spring where the results of the environmental impact report will be presented.

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