Sweden build Europe’s largest wind energy plant

While community opposition often blocks or hampers new wind power projects, Sweden has managed to break ground for Europe’s largest wind farm counting more than 1,000 giant wind turbines, with barely a whisper of protest. How is it possible to build a giant wind farm, covering the equivalent of five times the size of Paris, without protests?

The secret? The giant Markbygden wind farm, covering more than 500 square kilometres, or the equivalent of five times the size of Paris, is being built in a virtually uninhabited, desolate stretch of Sweden’s great north.

"If I were to try the same thing in Germany, it would take me 20 years to get everyone’s agreement," Wolfgang Kropp, the German head of the project, told.

Standing on the shores of the Baltic Sea at the Piteå harbour near the wind park site, he added: "For the same area, you would have 10,000 land owners. Here there are three. "That’s why we came here to Sweden in search of a good location," he said.

"In the south of the country, it is very difficult. There are farms, and vacation homes. Here in the north, there is no one," he said. Kropp’s company Svevind, a client of German wind power giant Enercon, is leading the construction of the wind farm, with 1,101 wind turbines scheduled to be built by 2022.

They should then produce energy equivalent to the production of two nuclear reactors. The site stretches across a vast area covered with dense pine forests interspersed with scattered villages of just a handful of brightly painted wooden houses.

They are surrounded by silence broken only by the occasional car or a fighter jet from a neighbouring base screaming past on a training mission. The giant wind farm is widely popular here.

The main forestry, paper and metals industries in the region are facing new environmental and climate regulations requiring them to significantly shrink their carbon footprints by 2020. That is something a change in energy dependence should help with.

"We want to turn this region into a new centre of green energy production," said Robert Bergman of Solander Science Park, a scientific laboratory in Piteaa studying among other things the potential of wood and paper-based fuels.

The wind farm project "is an obvious asset," he added. It is also viewed by many as a new source of income and an incentive for people to stay on in the surrounding, increasingly deserted villages.