Three Taiwan villages oppose German wind farm

Taipei - Three Taiwanese coastal villages voted to reject a proposal by a German firm to build a wind farm Saturday, while the German firm insisted the project would not harm the environment.

More than 300 people from the three villages in Xinwu, Taoyuan County, north Taiwan, voted on the wind farm plan by Germany's InfraVest GmbH

"All the participants are opposed to building the wind farm, unless InfraVest offers better proposals," Yeh Si-kuai, a member of the Self Help Group, told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa by phone.

"All the local officials support our opposition to the wind farm. The InfraVest people handed out leaflets explaining the wind farm, but we gave them our material detailing the harm of the wind farm," he said.

InfrVest claimed the villagers have been misled and the wind farm would not harm the environment.

"I tried to distribute material at the venue of the meeting to give them the correct information, but was barred from doing it," InfraVest Vice President Wang Yun-yi told dpa by phone.

"A small group of people are feeding the wrong information to the villagers, causing them to oppose the building of the wind farm. We will try to communicate with the villagers. If, after receiving the correct information, they still oppose it, we will accept the outcome," she said.

The firm was scheduled to start building nine wind turbines along the coast of Xinwu in October, but construction was delayed by local opposition.

Villagers said they would not oppose an offshore wind farm, but said an onshore wind farm would damage the ecology and pose a hazard to local residents.

"InfraVest has to cut a large area of coastal forest, or wind- breaking forest, and mangroves, which would cause soil and sand loss and destroy the habitat for dozens of migrating birds and seven types of crabs native to Xinwu," Yeh said.

"A wind turbine is 120 metes tall, InfraVest wants to build them within 60-85 metres of houses. If a turbine falls or a blade falls, it will crash on the houses," he said.

Yeh said the villagers tried to contact InfraVest several times, but the German company gave no response.

Wang Yi-yun denied that the wind turbines would be built in the middle of wind-break forest, saying only a total of about 100 trees would be cut down.

Regarding the hazard to nearby houses, Wang said that most of the turbines would be 200 metres away from villagers' houses, and only four houses would be within
100-200 metres of the turbines.

"We will not start construction unless the four families have given approval," she said.

After the referendum, the villagers tied yellow ribbons to the wind-break forest, which is 4 kilometres long and 20-30 metres deep.

InfraVest is one of the main foreign wind-power suppliers that have invested in Taiwan.

Since 1999, InfraVest has built five wind farms across Taiwan with a total of 90 turbines. (dpa)

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