Ministry Promoting Wind Turbines in Areas Slated for Nature and Preservation

Despite their support for wind energy, green NGOs oppose plan due to its effect on landscape.

Zafrir Rinat
Zafrir Rinat
Wind turbines in the Golan Heights, in 2010.
Wind turbines in the Golan Heights, in 2010.Credit: Yaron Kaminsky
Zafrir Rinat
Zafrir Rinat

The National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Ministry is acting to enable the installation of wind turbines for producing energy, even in areas designated for nature and landscape preservation.

The ministry’s proposal to enable the expansion of the areas where turbines can be built will be discussed on Monday day in the National Planning and Building Council.

A few weeks ago the council and the government approved changes in the National Development Master Plan (Tama 35), and decided that a plan for wind turbines can be approved in an area defined as a “scenic open space” only if it doesn’t harm the area and is located on its margins. A scenic open space is an area with a landscape worth preserving, and is subject to various building restrictions.

Today there are several relatively small wind turbine installations in the Golan, the Gilboa and Ramat Sirin near Beit She’an. The infrastructure ministry claims that the promotion of additional facilities has encountered many barriers, and the decision to restrict construction in scenic open spaces constitutes another one. The ministry says these open spaces largely overlap areas where wind conditions are especially favorable for electricity production. This is particularly true of the Galilee and the Golan Heights. The changes in the National Development Master Plan include additional scenic open spaces, which reduced the possibility of exploiting wind energy even further.

In light of these problems the ministry proposes canceling the clause restricting the building of turbines in scenic open spaces, claiming that the turbines don’t harm agricultural areas and heritages sites that are the main reason for the special designation. In any case, any plan for turbines must undergo a survey of their effect on the environment and it will be possible to examine whether they will harm the landscape.

In principle the green organizations support the construction of wind turbines because they produce clean energy. But these NGOs are concerned about their effect on the landscape and the ecological system in some areas. That’s why the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel objects to the proposal of the Ministry of National Infrastructure, Energy and Water.

The SPNI response: “The ink is not yet dry on the national council’s approval of the master plan, only a few weeks ago, and unfortunately they are about to give in to the pressures of entrepreneurs and commercial interests and to reopen Tama 35, the most important national master plan. The planning administration is supposed to bring a broad and overall perspective, for the benefit of citizens and society, for the sake of nature and the environment, and not a narrow perspective from which only few people profit.”

A few months ago the SPNI published a comprehensive report about the implications of wind turbines for the environment and the landscape. According to the report, in addition to the turbines there will also be a need for roads and electricity lines, all of which have a cumulative negative effect.

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