The Swiss Times - Swiss News in English

Complaints against wind farms dismissed

  • By The Swiss Times
  • 20 November 2023

The Federal Supreme Court has dismissed the main points of complaints regarding two wind farms planned in the cantons of Bern and Neuchâtel. The projects envisage a total of 27 wind turbines.

Complaints against wind farms dismissed
Wind turbines from the JUVENT power plant are pictured on the Mont-Croset in Saint-Imier, Switzerland on Wednesday May 10, 2017.

These are the wind farm projects “Parc éolien de la Montagne-de-Buttes” in the canton of Neuchâtel and “Parc éolien de la Montagne de Tramelan” in the canton of Bern. The Federal Supreme Court published three rulings on this on Friday.

In the case of the Neuchâtel project, the complainants raised objections regarding the cantonal structure plan. In particular, they criticized the intercantonal coordination. They also criticized the estimated total output and the associated classification of the wind farm as a project of national importance.

The opponents were also unsuccessful with their petitions regarding noise protection, shadow impact, water protection, landscape protection and bird protection. In view of the numerous protective measures ordered by the authorities, the Federal Supreme Court ruled that the important public interest in electricity production outweighed these.

However, more in-depth clarifications on the use of the golden eagle’s habitat will have to be made during the planning permission procedure, as can be seen from the recitals. The same applies to the specific measures against shadow impact.

Partial approval

Two appeals were lodged against the Bernese project. The Federal Supreme Court also rejected them with the exception of one minor point. The objections raised concerned the cantonal structure plan, noise and landscape protection, the night-time light markings for aviation and the protection of bats.

The Federal Supreme Court upheld one of the appeals relating to two temporary earth depots during the construction work. The amphibian protection requirements were supplemented here.

The energy and infrastructure company involved, BKW Energie AG, expressed its satisfaction with the Federal Supreme Court’s decision on Friday: “This decision by the Federal Supreme Court is of great importance to us. BKW is committed to promoting wind power in Switzerland. Projects such as this one on the Montagne de Tramelan are important pillars of Switzerland’s future energy supply, as they produce a particularly large amount of electricity in winter,” the company said.

The partner of the three Neuchâtel municipalities involved, Val-de-Travers, Les Verrières and La Cote-aux-Fées, the operating company Verrivent AG, was also delighted. The decision will make it possible to “contribute to the security of electricity supply with local, safe and sustainable production”, the operating company announced on Friday.

The Swiss Landscape Association (FLCH) criticized the Federal Supreme Court’s decision in a press release on Friday afternoon as a “serious blow to the protection of biodiversity and the landscape”.

Up to 126 gigawatt hours

The “Parc éolien de la Montagne-de-Buttes” project envisages 19 wind turbines with an expected total annual output of 95 gigawatt hours (GWh). The State Council of the canton of Neuchâtel rejected objections to the project in 2019.

The Cantonal Office for Spatial Development and the Environment granted the project sponsor the necessary permits subject to conditions. The cantonal court dismissed appeals by Helvetia Nostra and numerous private individuals in 2020. These appealed to the Federal Supreme Court.

Five wind turbines are planned for the “Parc éolien de la Montagne de Tramelan” in the “Prés de la Montagne” area and two in the “Montbautier” area with an expected total annual output of between 27 and 31 GWh.

The project was approved in referendums in the municipalities of Tramelan and Saicourt in 2015. The Bernese Office for Municipalities and Spatial Planning approved the project subject to conditions, rejected objections and issued the building permits.

The municipality of Genevez JU and several individuals unsuccessfully fought against this. In 2021, the Administrative Court of Bern rejected their appeals, whereupon they appealed to the Federal Supreme Court. (Judgments 1C_48/2021, 1C_329/2021 and 1C_335/2021 of 19.10. and 1.11.2023)

©Keystone/SDA

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