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Plans to build a wind farm on the Smøla Archipelago (Norway)

(Report by the Government, the Directorate for Nature Management of Norway)

Windfarm planning at Smøla Island
We refer to your letter dated 12 April 2001 in which you ask us to supply you with information on the proposed windfarm planning at Smøla island, and on the evaluation of its possible impact on the bird species protected by the Bern convention. We also refer to later e-mail correspondence where we signalled that we were unable to meet the proposed deadline of 3 May for our reply and your confirmation that a postponement in replying would be acceptable.

We understand that the background for your request is letters of complaint from BirdLife International and the Norwegian Ornithological Society. The Directorate for Nature Management is answering this request in the capacity of Norwegian management authority for the Bern Convention.

First of all, we should like to provide you with some background information concerning the formal processes required as basis for decisions to build windfarms in Norway.
The obligation to apply for licence according to the Energy Act comes into force when one or more components of the power plant has a voltage of 1 kV or more. This means that all wind power production plants delivering electricity to high voltage power networks must be processed as applications for licence. Furthermore, if the total investment costs exceed NOK 50 million and the proposed plant requires the development of a plan according to the Planning and Building Act (PBL), the proposed plant will have to be processed according to the regulations for granting licence when specified environmental values are at stake, specified in attachment II to the mentioned act.
At this time environmental impact assessments (EIAs) are in practice carried out for all larger wind power production plants.
Power line developments of 132 kV or more, and at lengths of more than 20 km from wind power production plants to the existing power lines require EIAs. If the total investment costs exceed NOK 50 million and the proposed power line requires the development of a plan according to the Planning and Building Act (PBL), the proposed power line will have to be processed according to the regulations for granting licence when specified environmental values are at stake, specified in attachment II to the mentioned act.  Power line developments are processed according to the regulations for granting licence together with the rest of the proposed plant/development and are part of the overall application for licence.
Authority
The Norwegian Water and Energy Diretorate (NVE) is the authority granting licence for wind power production plants. The authority has been delegated from the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy (OED). NVE is also the responsible authority with respect to EIAs for wind power production. OED is the responsible authority in cases of complaint concerning wind power production. A draft EIA programme must be submitted for comments to the Ministry of the Environment.
Regulations
· Licence processes according to the Energy Act;
-No licence may be granted until the EIA has been approved
· EIA according to the Planning and Building Act;
-The EIA shall form a satisfactory basis for decision for the management procedures leading up to licence and for possible decisions according to the Planning and Building Act. Eventual expected effects of the development, various alternatives concerning localization and building plans and proposals for mitigating measures will be discussed during the EIA.
· Planning processes according to the Planning and Building Act;
-In addition to licence, a local development plan and/or a municipal master plan may be required. The municipality is the responsible authority and makes the decisions. Possible complaints are dealt with at the Ministry of the Environment (MD). Processing of the complaints can take place at the same time as the licence procedures.

Management procedures
1.   The applicant/developer works out a notification for EIA according to the regulations of the Planning and Building Act. The notification contains a description of the project, its expected effects on the environment, natural resources and society, together with a proposal for an assessment programme. The notification is worked out on the basis of available information at the time of notification and sent to the Norwegian Water and Energy Directorate (NVE).

2.   NVE sends the notification on a public hearing to the relevant municipalities, county municipality, county governors, relevant management authorities, central and local organisations. The notification shall be made accessible to the public through the host municipality for the project and through the local papers. In addition it is customary to have public meetings in the communities involved.

3.   NVE decides on an assessment programme for the EIAs. NVE sends a draft of the assessment programme to the Ministry of the Environment, and decides on the assessment programme based on the comments of the hearing and possible comments from the Ministry of the Environment.

4.   Investigations are presented in reports that are summarized in an assessment report.

5.   The application for licence contains among other things a report on the applicant/developer, a technical and economic report of the project including descriptions of ownership and eventual expropriations, assessment report, descriptions of mitigating measures and eventual follow-up investigations.

6.   An application for licence including an assessment report is sent on a public hearing and is made available to the public. Official meetings are held with the municipality (-ies) where the project is to take place. The recipients of the hearing make their comments about whether the EIA can be accepted, and whether a licence ought to be given, and if relevant, which conditions should be set for granting the licence.

7.   NVE accepts the EIA. Eventual requests for additional information is made if the EIA does not fulfill the assessment programme. The additional assessment report is sent on a hearing. Conditions for follow-up investigations may also be requested.

8.   NVE grants licence including conditions. Complaints may be filed against granting licence.

9.   In the case of a complaint, NVE summarizes the complaints and evaluates whether new information has been acquired that forms a basis for changing the decision. If this is not the case, the papers are sent to the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy for a final decision.

10.   The Ministry of Petroelum and Energy (OED) has the responsibility for the processing of the complaints. A decision from OED is final (i.e. it does not have a complaint?s procedure).


The management procedure described above has been followed for Smøla. Please find below reference to documents that are related to the management procedures concerning the application for licence for windfarms at Smøla, and that are of particular relevance to your request:

1.   Background information - Short excerpts from recent reports to the Storting containing national objectives and policy. Short information about the Smøla project (Enclosure 1)
2.   Comments to the Statkraft SF: Notification about windfram at Smøla in Møre and Romsdal County from the Directorate for Nature Management (DN) 2 March 1998 (Excerpts from letter in Enclosure 2)
3.   Comments to Application for licence according to the Energy Act and an evaluation of environmental impact assessments Statkraft and NEAS by the County Governor of Møre and Romsdal 1 May 2000 (Excerpts from the letter in Enclosure 3).
4.   DNs comments to Statkraft SF; Environmental impact assessment (EIA) and application for licence of windfarms at Smøla in Møre and Romsdal county, 18 May 2000 (Excerpts form the letter in Enclosure 4).
5.   DN?s comments to Windpower production at Smøla additional information from Statkraft, 24 November 2000 (Excerpts from the letter in Enclosure 5).
6.   Norwegian Water and Energy Directorate (NVE) grants licence to Statkraft, and denies licence to Ørntua and NEAS, 20. December 2000 (Excerpts from the letter in Enclosure 6).
7.   DN?s comments to the complaints, dated 26 February 2001 (Excerpts from the letter in Enclosure 7).
8.   NVE?s decision is forwarded to The Ministry of Petroleum and Energy, dated 20 March 2001 (Excerpts from the letter in Enclosure 8).
9.   Letter from the Ministry of the Environment to the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy dated 10 July 2001 (Excerpts from the letter in Enclosure 9).
10.   A map of Smøla showing the planned wind power production plants is also enclosed.

Effects of the windfarm on the Smøla population of white-tailed eagle.
Concerning the effects of the windfarm on the Smøla population of the white-tailed eagle, we would like to quote three excerpts from the letter of the Ministry of the Environment, dated 10 July 2001 (cf Enclosure 9):
1:   The effects on the white-tailed eagle is a central topic in this case. Smøla has the highest density of breeding pairs of white-tailed eagles in the whole world, and 65-70 pair of white-tailed eagles breed on the island. The main part of the population breed south of the planned windfarm. In the windfarm area 10-12 pairs are breeding, and the density here is the highest in the world. In Norway the status of the white-tailed eagle in our red-list is care-demanding because of a positive population trend over the last years, while it earlier had status as vulnerable. On the global red-list the species has a status as vulnerable, and Norway has a global responsibility for safeguarding and taking care of this species. 45% of the European population lives in Norway. Due to the consequences for the white-tailed eagle, Norway has a complaint against her in the Bern convention for possible breach on the convention.

2:   The windmills might be the cause of collisions between the white-tailed eagle and rotor blades, and the loss of breeding sites because the eagle needs a certain distance from human activities when deciding on its breeding site. The Ministry of the Environment consequently is of the opinion that the breeding sites will be lost within the windfarm itself and also in a certain distance beyond the windfarm. The development might also have negative consequences for the other bird species at Smøla, inter alia in the form of displacement, reduced population and danger of collision.

3:   The Ministry of the Environment is especially concerned about the effects on the biological diversity, and in particular the bird population at Smøla. The consequences for the white-tailed eagle are central to this case, but the Ministry of the Environment is of the opinion that we need more knowledge about the actual effects on eagles and other biological diversity before we can make accurate statements about their importance for a further development at Smøla. In Denmark and other EU countries all socalled EU-bird areas are, according to our knowledge, exempt as localities for wind power production. This would include all breeding localities for white-tailed eagles. The same would have been the actual policy in Norway if the Habitats and Birds Directive were a part of the EEA-agreement.

In addition we would like to add two qoutes from the letter from NVE, dated 20 December 2000, concerning the decision to grant licence to Statkraft (cf Enclosure 6):

1:   Registrations that the White-tailed eagle Project has carried out in the year 2000, shows that 5 pairs of white tailed eagle have their breeding grounds within 1 kilometres  (km) from infrastructure in the proposed NEAS windfarm, and a further 5 pairs within 2 km. For the proposed Statkraft step I the corresponding numbers are 6 and 9 pairs, and for step II, 12 and 13 pairs. The total breeding population of white-tailed eagle at Smøla is estimated at 65-70 pairs. Out of 35 registered nests at northwestern Smøla, 25 are in the affected wilderness area.

2:   The windfarm might have negative effects on birdlife in the area. This is especially true for the white tailed eagle that breed in or near the planned windfarm area. NVE can not see, however, that consequences will considerably affect the whole population of white tailed eagles at Smøla.
The environmental consequences as a whole are considered acceptable viewed in relation to the benefits of establishing renewable energy production and the national objective of building windpower that produce 3 TWh by 2010.

Conclusions, status and the way forward
Against this background, we would like to emphasise that the case of Smøla windfall planning has been dealt with in a correct way, according to the normal procedures for management as required by Norwegian law. NVE has now forwarded its proposal for a decision for approval by the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy, cf. also our enclosure 8. The Ministry of Petroleum and Energy has asked the Ministry of the Environment for an evaluation of NVE?s decision. The Ministry of the Environment has given their views in a letter dated 10 July 2001, cf enclosure 9, in which they recommend that the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy maintains NVE?s decision of granting licence for both step I and II at Smøla.  The Ministry of the Environment is of the view that development of step II should take place only after the actual effects of step I have been evaluated, cf enclosure 9:

The Ministry of the Environment would like to stress that the applications for wind power production plants now is so extensive that the objective of 3TWh by 2010 would be reached even though Smøla II were not developed.

The Ministry of the Environment in its letter of 10 July 2001 considers it very important that mitigation measures are carried out in order to limit the negative effects as much as possible. In addition they write that such measures should be a requirement that should be defined precisely in the conditions for granting licence. In addition they write that the conditions for granting licence should contain requirements for thorough pre- and post- investigations for step I in order to obtain the best basis for determining contents and extent of the mitigation measures.

The Ministry of Petroleum and Energy to arrive at a final conclusion shortly.
The Norwegian authorities are at present considering the need for implementation of comprehensive planning procedures, inter alia regional plans, for overall evaluation of the feasibility of the areas for such energy production, as well as a project for systematic evaluation of environmental impacts for notified, granted and realized projects. This evaluation project would form a basis for a future advisory policy document on windfarm planning.

Finally, we would like to emphasise that the translations of documents have been done to provide you with the necessary background information quickly, and that any discrepancy between the original version in Norwegian and the translated version is unintended. For a more formal evaluation of the exact legal and scientific contents a more in-depth translation process will have to be implemented. This will be done if the Secretariat so requires.

Sincerely yours

Ola Skauge
Berit Lein
Director General

Copy: Ministry of the Environment,
Ministry of Petroleum and Energy,
Ministry of Foreign Affairs,
County Governor of Møre and Romsdal,
Norwegian Ornithological Society (NOF),
Norwegian Water and Energy Directorate (NVE).


Se kart (Enclosure 10)

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