Galilee Wind Farms Approved Despite Environmental, Arab Residents' Concerns

Northern district planning committee ignores expert's objections that the installations will be noisy and block views of historic Jezreel Valley farmland

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File photo: Wind turbines in Israel.
File photo: Wind turbines in Israel.Credit: Gil Eliahu

Israeli authorities have approved the construction of over a dozen wind turbines in the Jezreel Valley, even though a committee-appointed investigator recommended rejecting the plan due to concerns that the installations would ruin the landscape and cause noise pollution.

The investigator’s recommendation was voted down last week because the chairman of  the Northern District Planning and Construction Committee, Uri Ilan, used his authorized double vote.

The plans were advanced by the EDF and Blue Sky companies to build 16 wind turbines in the valley that will produce a total of 64 megawatts of power.

Eleven of the installations would be placed near the communities of Geva and Kfar Yehezkel. Arab residents in two nearby villages likely to be effected weren't consulted about the project, investigator Adam Colmansaid.

After objections were filed to the plans, the committee appointed a planner to evaluate them. Proposed wind turbine projects for Israel have faced many objections in the past.

Opponents said the public was not sufficiently involved in the planning process, and that the concerns of residents in two Arab villages in the area, Sulam and Na’ura, were totally ignored.

Colman recommended not approving the plans for the turbines that would also be erected near Geva and Kfar Yehezkel, saying that the planning authorities had designated those areas as preservation-worthy because of their landscape typical of the early agricultural settlement era.

“The size of the turbines and their regional impact are so broad that [they dwarf] every other structure in the area,” Colman said.

But the majority on the committee, as a result of the chairman’s double vote, rejected Colman’s assessments as subjective. Some members countered that the turbines would help preserve the unique landscape by preventing other construction in that area. 

In his report, Colman agreed with residents that community involvement in the plan had been deficient. The developers claimed they had followed Environmental Protection Ministry instructions and distributed questionnaires to residents and held a meeting about the project.

Colman said the information that was provided was unclear and that  the questionnaires were distributed to only a small number of people. He recommended making changes to this process in the future. He  agreed that Arab residents were not involved in the process, but did not consider that a sufficient reason to reject the plans.

Colman said that not enough consideration had been given to the effect that noise from the turbines would have on those working in nearby fields. The district committee ruled that the task force overseeing the plans’ implementation would examine whether the noise had any effects on workers’ health, or at a nearby school.