Fri, Jul 12, 2013 - Page 3 News List

Yuanli residents protest building of wind turbines

NOT FAIR:Protesters say they were not consulted before construction started and the consent documents were signed by 18 friends of the Yuanli borough chief

By Loa Iok-sin  /  Staff reporter

Residents of Miaoli County’s Yuanli Township (苑裡) who worry about the impact of wind turbines close to their homes, yesterday staged a demonstration in front of the Ministry of Economic Affairs in Taipei and asked the ministry to come up with a mandatory safe distance between wind turbines and residences.

“We want a safe distance! No to black-box operations!” dozens of residents from Yuanli and their supporters chanted as they threw eggs at portraits of Bureau of Energy Director-General Ou Chia-jui (歐嘉瑞), the bureau’s chief secretary, Chuang Shih-ming (莊世明), and its electricity division head, Lee Chun-li (李君禮).

“We are throwing eggs at portraits of the three officials this time, but if the ministry or the Energy Bureau ignore our call, we will be throwing eggs into the ministry next time,” Liu Yu-yu (劉育育) said.

The residents said they were not informed or consulted prior to the wind turbines’ construction and when they realized what was happening, they found that the machines were too close to their homes.

“There are 7,000 residents in the four boroughs that would be affected by the wind turbines, but none of us knew about it until the construction started in September last year,” Yuanli Self-Help Organization Against Wind Turbines president Chen Ching-hai (陳清海) said. “When we protested, the wind energy firm wanted to talk with us about cash rewards, but we don’t want cash rewards, we want a good quality of life.”

Lin Mu-huo (林木火), a 75-year-old resident who makes a living from farming and fishing, said he only found out about the project when construction work started about 100m from his home.

“Later we learned that the so-called pre-construction presentation meeting was no more than a dinner at a restaurant with 18 people who are friends of the borough chief,” Lin said. “They signed the consent [documents] and the signatures of these 18 people are now being used as proof that the entire borough agreed to it.”

Lin said that as a wind turbine is only 100m away from his home, he is very worried about the impact of the noise and the risk that the blades may break off, as happened to a wind turbine in Taoyuan County.

“I want to stress that we are not against green energy, but the well-being of the residents should also be taken into consideration,” said another resident, Cheng Ming-min (鄭明敏). “If two wind turbines have to be at least 350m apart, how can you build one only 100m or 200m away from someone’s home?”

Responding to the call at a separate setting, Lee said the bureau last month promised residents that it would propose a safe distance between wind turbines and homes within three months.

“We remember that promise and we will come up with a proposed safe distance by the end of the month, while public hearings will be held throughout next month to collect the opinions of anyone who cares to express them,” Lee said.

However, when asked if the future mandatory safe distance between a wind turbine and a private home would apply to wind turbines already under construction, Lee became more reserved.

“Normally, a regulation would not be retroactive. However, it could still be discussed on a case-by-case basis,” he said.

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