(Descriptions and links to the rest of this series is at the end of this article)
The sky hasn't fallen, as some naysayers predicted, and opinions of the 72-turbine wind farm now appear to range from unabashed enthusiasm to resigned acceptance
Special to cct by Jack Coleman
NYSTED, DENMARK - Nearly two years have passed since construction began of a huge wind farm in coastal waters six miles south of this village, and 18 months since the project went fully online.
The sky hasn't fallen, as some naysayers predicted, and opinions of the 72-turbine wind farm now appear to range from unabashed enthusiasm to resigned acceptance. Finding anyone outright hostile to the project proves elusive.
"I think that it is fantastic. You don't have a stinking chimney", Hanne Blaaberg who works part-time in the tourist office at the harbor
"I think that it is fantastic," said Hanne Blaaberg, a semi-retired "pensioneer" who moved to Nysted from Copenhagen a year ago and works part-time in the tourist office at the harbor. "You don't have a stinking chimney. And in Denmark, they don't nuclear." And two Danish tourist gave the Clean Power Now visitors this video of their impressions.
"Some people have told me the lights at night are annoying, but only a few people have told me that," Blaaberg said.
At the Restaurant Rogeriet overlooking Nysted Harbor, owner Sally Vestergaad recalls the complaints she heard while the wind farm was being built, roughly seven miles to the south and visible from her restaurant.
"At the start, everyone used to comment on this - 'what a shame, you had such a nice view,' " Vestergaad said. "But I think people get used to this as the day goes by." In the opinion of Vestergaad, who sees the windmills just about every day they are visible, "they are very beautiful."
The 120-seat restaurant she owns with her husband Poul has not suffered as a result of the wind farm, nor have the Vestergaads served more customers as a result.
But Vestergaad said local fishermen tell her they've been affected, that eel, flatfish (founder) and shrimp are not as plentiful as before the wind farm was built.
Of shrimp in local waters, "the fishermen tell me that it will be seven years before they will come again," Vestergaad said. Despite this, however, the prices she charges for seafood dishes are "still the same."
"We are told (that) between the mills there are more and more fish. The mills are like a reef, so that all the small fish can hide there and survive."
- Harbormaster Hauberg
Others in Nysted, including the harbormaster and mayor, are skeptical of claims that this wind farm at the western end of the Baltic Sea has hurt local fisheries.
"We don't know if that is the reason," said Sven Erik Hauberg, Nysted's harbormaster. "We haven't had shrimp here for two years. But the same thing happened seven years ago. So we don't know for sure."
"We are told (that) between the mills there are more and more fish," Hauberg said. "The mills are like a reef, so that all the small fish can hide there and survive."
While Nysted remains a popular destination for sports fishermen and vacationers, only one full-time fisherman works out of Nysted Harbor, Hauberg said.
The fisherman was working out of Nysted before the wind farm was built and, since then, "he's still here," said Hauberg, the town's harbormaster for 20 years.
According to Mayor Damsbo-Andersen, "it is true that we have had problems with shrimp, but that's happened all across the country."
What about problems with radar due to the wind farm, as critics of the Cape Wind project claim could happen - has that been a problem here? "Not a problem, no," Hauberg said.
How about the alleged "strobe" effect from sunlight hitting the turbines at a certain angle and creating bright flashes of light? This happens about once a month, Hauberg said, and "only in the summer."
The wind farm is visible about half the time
The mayor and harbormaster said, separately, that the wind farm is visible about half the time.
The wind farm off Nysted was first proposed about six years ago by the Danish government, Damsbo-Andersen said, as a way of reducing emissions of greenhouse gases and pollutants from fossil-fueled power plants that exacerbate climate change.
Nysted was one of five sites chosen by the government, along with Horns Rev along the coast of the North Sea in Jutland, where 80 turbines were built three years ago.
"The bad thing was, they told us about it after they made the decision," Damsbo-Andersen said. "We weren't so happy about it. We were afraid it was going to hurt everybody that lives here, the view of the ocean. We're used to having clear sights and now, all of a sudden, we thought we were going to have a fence out there."
"We thought, what's going to happen to our fishing, what's going to happen to our tourism?" Damsbo-Andersen said. "Will the tourists still want to come here if they have to look at it?"
Local residents were also concerned about the value of their properties, and "if they would be able to sell anything at all," he said.
But these perceptions began to shift during construction of the wind farm and local residents could watch its progress, Damsbo-Andersen said. "I think it's just like when you have a tree in the garden or something. When it's there, you get used to it. And I think most people, they have gotten used to it."
But a continuing source of irritation for many residents are the red lights visible on the turbines at night. The lights on each of the four outer rows of the turbines blink every four seconds and are brighter than the lights within the array. Some local residents have dubbed it "the discotheque on the water."
They are especially great looking at night with the lights on
Yet many of children and young people in Nysted appreciate how the wind farm looks at night, on those nights it is visible, according to a 12-year-old student visiting a wind energy information center at Nysted Harbor. "At night they are especially great looking with the lights on," said Ronnie Hansen, as translated by his teacher, Knud Hansen (no relation). "He thinks there are a lot of young people who have that meaning. It's not only him, he says."
Nysted is comparable in many ways to coastal villages on Cape Cod facing Nantucket Sound, where Cape Wind Associates wants to build 130 wind turbines on a shoal six miles south of Craigville Beach. If built, it would be the first offshore wind farm in the US and the largest in the world. It would claim that distinction only temporarily, until a 200-turbine facility capable of producing more electricity is built off Ireland.
Nysted counts about 85,000 "overnights" from visitors annually, according to "turistchef" Helle Teper, and some 5,000 sailboats, yachts and powerboats stop here in summer.
Tourism is the village's second most important industry
Tourism is the village's second most important local industry, after farming, according to the mayor. The presence of the offshore wind farm has apparently not deterred a developer from clearing land along Nysted's shoreline to build 132 summer homes, said Mayor Damsbo-Andersen.
Along with offshore wind power, existing and potential, Nysted and Cape Cod share restrictive land use practices in common. Those new houses being built along the shore may eventually be described as "waterview" instead of "waterfront," since property owners "can't build within 100 meters of water," Damsbo-Anderson said.
Looking at the the Nysted shoreline from the deck of a charter boat en route to the wind farm, the results of these practices are quickly evident. The shoreline has far fewer houses than can be seen along many stretches of Cape Cod, although the National Seashore on the Outer Cape is similarly protected.
Right across the narrow, tree-lined road from where the new houses will be built, a large building with the red roof tiles so characteristic of Denmark overlooks the Baltic. It is, we are told, what Americans would describe as a halfway house for recovering alcoholics and addicts - and it defies belief that a facility like this would occupy similar waterfront property on Cape Cod.
Previous report; "The Sound and Vision of the Wind" - A lot of tourists only come to see the wind farm, and the world's two largest ones are only visible half the time, click here.
Third report; "Kinetic Art at Sea" - The power of the wind in any sail and nary a dead bird in sight, click here.
Second report:: "Dylan Does Denmark" - The CPN travelers take a fishing boat out to their first visit to the wind park six miles south of Nysted, Denmark, click here.
First report: "The Wind Blows Free in Denmark" - Thirty-four Cape and Island adventurers arrive to see what Nantucket Sound may look like in a few years, click here.