There are many considerations that must be taken into account when planning a wind farm. You have to take care of people, culture and nature in a good way. "We in St1 are working very systematically on this," Ragna Sørlundsengen assures.
She is responsible for sustainability at St1 Norway and has worked with Davvi wind park for a long time. The path to a licence application has been long and winding, but it’s been important to take the time to do it right.
Must be able to coexist
Wind farms must be able to coexist with reindeer husbandry, but this has not been a legal requirement. The Supreme Court ruling in the Fosen case has clearly established that a licence has been granted for parks even though the impact assessments said that the projects would have a major negative impact on reindeer husbandry. In the autumn of 2021, the reindeer owners at Fosen were upheld by the Supreme Court that the wind turbines are located in a central winter pasture area and that they are no longer able conduct traditional reindeer husbandry, without relying on winter feeding and truck transportations. The wind turbines prevent reindeer husbandry to such an extent, that it constituted a violation of the Sami's right to practice culture according to the UN Convention on Civil and Political Rights, Article 27.
"The impact assessment in this case concluded that there would be a large to very large negative impact on reindeer husbandry in the late winter season, yet the licence was granted," says Sørlundsengen.
"In order to minimize the impact on reindeer husbandry, we have since the start of the Davvi project proposed the planning area outside grazing areas, based on existing maps and dialogue with Sami representatives and the municipality," she continues.
According to the independent reports by Multiconsult and the Sami Business Association, there is no summer, winter, spring or autumn grazing in the area around Davvi wind park.
"Based on impact assessment produced by professional biologists with many years of experience in the Norwegian context, researchers on reindeer husbandry from the region and ecosystem experts, we support their opinion that to a large extent, coexistence should be possible with the correct measures taken at the right time," says Sørlundsengen.
Some additional work may be necessary
The establishment of the wind park in the planned area for Davvi, will therefore not deny or significantly reduce the Sami people their right to exercise their culture in the form of traditional reindeer husbandry. However, it may in periods be necessary with some additional work with moving or herding reindeer during the construction phase. St1 and Grenselandet have taken this into account.
"We have set aside considerable funds for measures that will hopefully make this less of a burden, and of course hope to have a good dialogue with reindeer herding district throughout the period. We do also for example, have an agreement with reindeer herding district 9 to build a barrier fence between two districts, as it was identified that the construction and operations might lead to a mixing of reindeer. It is included in the permit application," she says.
Miles away from the nearest house
The impact assessment has been very thorough. About 1,000 hours have been spent in the planning area. Every available map has been studied and is being constantly revisited. This is to make sure that impacts on nature and the local population is taken into account in all phases, as well as making sure that there are no cultural heritage sites or other sacred places within the park's area. The planned park is outside hiking or recreational areas, in an area with low biological diversity. Another important reason for choosing the area is that it is currently largely inaccessible and far from primary residences and vacation homes.
"It is almost impossible to get to the planning area without a helicopter today. Even when the park is ready, concerns related to noise, ice throws or shadow casts will not be very relevant, as the park is located far from inhabited areas and hiking tracks, Sørlundsengen emphasizes.
Understand the skepticism
The wind power industry itself will probably admit some problems with older licence applications. Sørlundsengen understands that many people have an inherent scepticism towards wind farm establishments.
"When you find examples where the turbines have become significantly larger than communicated, both to local population and decision-makers, the process has not been as transparent and good as it should have been," the sustainability expert emphasizes.
She believes that in previous cases there has been a lack of local backing, local democracy, and the inclusion of interest groups. St1 wants to do something about that.
"It is a fundamental principle throughout our entire business that we must operate responsibly and transparently. We will have dialogue and cooperation with local actors," says Sørlundsengen.
Going beyond requirements
With their impact assessments related to Davvi, St1 and Grenselandet AS have gone beyond what is required by law in the existing permit application system.
"Human rights and local impacts are complex topics and extend beyond individual wind park projects. We have made an analysis and assessment of many kinds of potential human rights and labor risks for the project's various phases with mitigating measures which we will attach to the permit application," says Sørlundsengen.
This is fundamental to St1s human rights and due diligence work.
"Keeping the doors open for local participation and ensuring access to the right information at the right time are two of the most important pillars of this work," assures the sustainability expert.
In addition to this, reporting concerns and early warning channels already exist at various levels, there are group level policies on human rights and guidelines how to have engage local stakeholders are drawn up. They have a local representative in place in Lebesby to be able to maintain an ongoing dialogue with the residents.
"It should be an easy way for the local community to connect with us. We should not be hundreds of kilometers away," says Sørlundsengen.
Crisis are looming
What is certain is that something must be done, because the crises are lining up.
"We are in a climate crisis, socio-economic crisis with inflation impacting everyone, there is war and energy crisis. Almost no matter how we look at it, we have a need for more renewable power. Whether it's to bring down the prices of electricity, national security or business for the future; We can't do this without building more power," she says.
"If we agree that we need more power, then we need to discuss where we can build it and then how it can be done in the best possible way," concludes Ragna Sørlundsengen.