Biodiversity is an important consideration among the many that must be taken into account in the planning of a wind farm. People, reindeer herding, culture, and nature must all be well-preserved. – This is something we work on systematically, assures Ragna Sørlundsengen.
She is the sustainability manager at St1 Norway and has been working on the Davvi wind farm for an extended period. The road to the permit application has been long and winding, but essential to pave.
To minimize the impact on reindeer herding, we have proposed the project area to be located outside the grazing areas since the inception of the Davvi project, based on existing maps and dialogues with Sami representatives and the municipality.
Coexistence with reindeer husbandry must be possible for wind farms, but it has not been a legal requirement. The Supreme Court ruling in the Fosen case clearly established that permits have been granted for parks even when impact assessments indicated significant negative impacts on reindeer husbandry. In the autumn of 2021, reindeer herders in Fosen received support from the Supreme Court, stating that wind turbines were located in a central winter grazing area, thereby violating the Sami reindeer herders' right to cultural practices under the UN Convention on Civil and Political Rights, Article 27.
– The impact assessment for this case concluded that there would be significant to very significant negative impacts on reindeer husbandry in late winter, yet the permits was granted, says Sørlundsengen.
– To minimize the impact on reindeer herding, we have proposed the project area to be located outside the grazing areas since the inception of the Davvi project, based on existing maps and dialogues with Sami representatives and the municipality, she continues.
According to assessments by Multiconsult and the Sami Business Association, there is no summer, winter, spring, or autumn grazing in the area near the Davvi wind farm.
– We argue that coexistence should be possible based on the expert assessments in the impact study conducted by biologists, reindeer herding researchers, and ecosystem experts, says Sørlundsengen.
The establishment of the wind farm will not prevent traditional reindeer herding, but it may lead to additional work related to the relocation or herding of reindeer, especially during the construction phase. St1 and Grenselandet have taken this into account.
– We have allocated significant funds for measures to make this easier, and we naturally hope to maintain a good dialogue with reindeer herders throughout the period. For example, we have an agreement with reindeer grazing district 9 to build a fence. It is included in the permit application, she says.
The impact assessment has been extremely thorough. Approximately 1,000 hours were spent in the field. Every available map has been studied. All of this has been done to consider biodiversity and the local population, as well as to ensure that there are no cultural heritage sites or other sacred places within the wind farm's area. The planned farm is located outside of hiking or grazing areas in an area with limited biodiversity. Another significant reason for the site selection is that it is currently inaccessible, far from the nearest settlement.
– It is almost impossible to reach the project area without a helicopter today. Even when the wind farm is completed, concerns related to noise or shadow flicker will not be very relevant, as the wind farm is far from populated areas and hiking areas, emphasizes Sørlundsengen.
It is almost impossible to reach the project area without a helicopter today. Even when the wind farm is completed, concerns related to noise or shadow flicker will not be very relevant, as the wind farm is far from populated areas and hiking areas.
The wind power industry itself may acknowledge some problems with older permit applications. Sørlundsengen understands that many have an inherent skepticism toward wind power developments.
– When you find examples where the turbines have become significantly larger than communicated to both the local population and decision-makers, the process has not been as transparent and good as it should have been, emphasizes the sustainability expert.
She believes that, in previous cases, there have been shortcomings in local anchoring, local democracy, and the inclusion of interest groups. St1 aims to change that.
– It is a fundamental principle throughout our business that we should operate responsibly and transparently. We should have dialogues and cooperation with local stakeholders, asserts Sørlundsengen.
With its assessments in Davvi, St1 and Grenselandet DA have gone beyond what is legally required in the existing permit system.
– Human rights are a complex issue and go beyond individual wind farm projects. We have mapped potential human rights and labor risks for the project's different phases, along with mitigating measures we will include in the permit application, says Sørlundsengen.
St1 systematically works on this.
– Keeping doors open for local participation and ensuring access to the right information at the right time are two of the most important pillars of this work, assures St1's sustainability manager.
Furthermore, there are already notification channels at various levels, concrete guidelines on human rights, and how to communicate with local stakeholders are being developed. They have a local representative in Lebesby to maintain an ongoing dialogue with residents.
– There should be an easy way for the local community to contact us. We will not be hundreds of kilometers away, says Sørlundsengen.
Keeping doors open for local participation and ensuring access to the right information at the right time are two of the most important pillars of this work.
What is certain is that something needs to be done because crises are looming. It just needs to be done correctly.
– We are in a climate crisis, a socio-economic crisis, there are wars and an energy crisis. Almost no matter how we look at it, we need more renewable energy. Whether it is to lower electricity prices, national security, or business for the future; we cannot achieve this without building out more power generation, she says.
– If we agree that we need more power, we need to discuss where we can build it and how it can be done as effectively as possible, concludes Ragna Sørlundsengen.
St1 has several layers of value chain requirements regarding human rights, sustainability, labor conditions, and information:
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