(Bloomberg) -- Statkraft AS may have to tear down as many as 151 turbines at one of Europe’s biggest wind farms following a supreme court ruling in favor of Sami reindeer owners.
The ruling covers two wind farms built on traditional reindeer pastures in central Norway that the Sami people claim violates their indigenous rights. They have now won a key decision in the supreme court that leaves the operator Statkraft AS in limbo about the future of one of its biggest onshore wind power facilities.
The ruling means that the farms, which are barely over two years old, should never have been given a license back in 2010, according to Eirik Bronner, lawyer for one of the plaintiffs. Without a license all production should stop and the turbines dismantled, he said.
“That is how we see it,” Bronner said. “What the Supreme Court has said is that the licensing decision is invalid. This means that there are two illegal wind parks.”
For now, the 151 turbines in Storheia and Roan, part of the Fosen wind project, will continue to spin as the verdict is passed on to the Petroleum and Energy Ministry for an assessment. The ministry will now consider the ruling before determining a course of action, a spokesman said without saying when such a decision could be expected.
“It is a completely new situation for us,” Torbjorn Steen, a spokesman for Statkraft and the Fosen wind project said. “There are no immediate consequences of this until we get the ministry’s assessment”
Wind power has struck a nerve in Norway, with a backlash against the machines that stand as tall as skyscrapers seeing environmentalists line up with oil industry supporters against the energy source. With the uncertainty created by Monday’s ruling, its future in Norway may be limited.
The Fosen project was Statkraft’s first attempt at a large scale onshore wind farm in Norway, costing as much 1.1 billion euros ($1.2 billion) when the deal with Credit Suisse was announced in 2016. With a combined capacity of 1,000 megawatts, it remains one of the biggest onshore wind farms in Norway.
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