The Norwegian Supreme Court on Monday stripped two wind farms of their operating licenses in a case that could boost the legal rights of the nation’s Sami people.
Reindeer herders in Norway argue that the sight and sound of wind turbines frighten animals grazing nearby and therefore jeopardize age-old traditions, and that land should not be expropriated for such projects.
The court case centered on whether the construction of turbines at Storheia and Roan in the Fosen region of central Norway, part of a US$1.3 billion development that is Europe’s largest onshore wind farm, had interfered with Sami herders’ cultural rights under international conventions.
“A grand chamber of the supreme court unanimously found an interference with this right, and ruled the wind power license and the expropriation decision invalid,” the court said in its ruling.
It did not say what should happen next to the facilities, but a lawyer representing the herders said that the verdict means the 151 wind turbines should be dismantled.
“Our starting point is that these two wind farms are illegal and have to be taken down,” Knut Helge Hurum of the Fend law firm said. “We are awaiting contact from the owners of the wind farm to see what they have to say about this.”
Fosen Vind developed both sites and remains the main owner of Storheia.
The court’s decision came as a surprise, Fosen Vind said in a statement, adding that it would await a response from the Norwegian Ministry of Petroleum and Energy before making further comment.
The ministry said that it was studying the verdict.
“We will have to come back to how this case should be handled,” a ministry spokesperson said.
The verdict could also affect other projects, Hurum said.
“It will have quite an impact on later developments inside the Sami reindeer area. It’s certainly relevant for other wind farms, but also for mines and other big development projects, big roads for example,” he said.
The Roan wind farm is now a separate company, Roan Vind.
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