External contribution

« The wind turbine scam »: testimony of an organic farmer from Auvergne

The main characteristic of contemporary wind energy is that it crystallizes the divide between the supporters of green capitalism and those of a radical ecology. And, in fact, what is called « industrial wind power » has intentions that are often far from environmental concerns. The conditions under which the industry is set up are decried by many environmental activists but also, and above all, by rural people who denounce the industrialization of the countryside.

The latter operates according to a capitalist, financial, technophile and transnational logic that is nothing new; the production of industrial wind power is based on factories in China and manufacturers (turbine manufacturers(1)) in Germany or Denmark, all wrapped up in the « purest financial tradition(2) ». Witness the case of the company Théolia, renamed Futuren and bought by EDF in 2017, which became known « for its stock market shenanigans and repeated indebtedness on the backs of its small shareholders(3)  » and its legal attacks(4) against the opposition to industrial wind power. In fact, the establishment of the wind industry in the countryside is very often done in a brutal and corrupt manner. In this regard, the Central Service for the Prevention of Corruption has been concerned for nearly 10 years now(5), about the illegal interests between elected officials and the renewable energy multinationals that court them(6), which are present in the installation of wind power plants.

For a long time, the large industrial companies that make up the sector have benefited from public subsidies that provide a strong incentive to set up. Today, European directives are progressively attacking regulated tariffs and the industrial wind power market is becoming increasingly concentrated, leading to higher bills and a race for profitability for the consumer. The large groups that dominate the market then have the means to finance their greenwashing campaigns in favor of the « energy transition » and thus to conceal the social, economic and environmental aberration of the rare metal extraction chains in the mines of Africa or China. They also try to hide the ecological cost involved in each concrete base required to erect a mast: approximately 1,500 tons for a wind turbine and 1 million tons per year for the entire industry(7). We could also talk about the composites (mixture of resins and glass fibers) necessary for the blades and whose recycling is difficult(8).

Concretely, the only perspective of these « new technologies » lies in the passage to the « ecotechnocracy »; synonymous of the dependence of the societies to exclusive, disproportionate and centralized technical sets that participates in the renewal of the mystification of the technical phenomenon. Man has neither the understanding nor the thoughtful control of his technical means of interaction with the natural world when the energy he uses comes from a giant thermodynamic solar power plant or a conventional thermal power plant.

Moreover, solar, wind and hydro power will never be able to provide societies with the massive amounts of raw materials and energy required by highly concentrated populations and hyper-centralized industry. Conversely, the combined use of different technologies at the local level could be more than sufficient for the needs of small communities. In this sense, despite the caricatured criticisms addressed to anti-wind activists, they have the merit of politicizing the issue of energy, from its production to its consumption. It is not by chance that the miniature wind turbine(9), relatively easy to make and to repair, is not (enough) diffused. It, but also low-tech, agro-ecology, autonomous constructions, would allow the citizens of a local community to become the autonomous producers and consumers of their energy.

Testimonial

I am 35 years old, I am an organic farmer in Auvergne. Two years ago, I was contacted by a private company that was planning to install a wind farm in my community. I received it with joy! I was looking forward to participating in an environmental project.

- First surprise: I expected to meet a representative of the State, or of the prefecture for this kind of project (energy is, it seems to me, the good of all and we are all concerned). In fact, this was not the case; it was a private company, financed by foreign pension funds, that was in charge of the project. A bit strange but, after having inquired, I realized that all the projects were held by private companies which prospect everywhere in France to seek grounds to place wind turbines. So I thought that this company wanted to buy me a piece of land, a bit like a « green » real estate developer.

- Second surprise: the company was indeed planning to install a wind turbine on my property, but they did not want to « take away » my land. She only wanted to rent the land. And this, for an absolutely staggering sum: 30,000 euros per year for two wind turbines implanted. My current income is 1.500 euros per month, so think about it, 30.000 euros net per year for 20 years! For 20 years… 30.000 euros that fall every year and I participate in the national ecology. A dream!

The company insisted that I sign « quickly » because other farmers might also be interested. At 30,000 euros per year, I didn’t doubt it for a second. But… I am from Auvergne, and by nature suspicious, « they want to pay 75 times the price of the land without owning it? Here? Where our land is not worth much? There is a wolf somewhere. So I looked for the wolf. And I found it by asking for a new appointment with the company. I asked them for a lease agreement. And I read every little line. And this is the question I asked them: after 20 years, what happens? A very vague answer: « (.…) We won’t be there anymore, because we sell our sites to foreign companies (especially Chinese). But, as the law requires us to provide for the dismantling of the wind turbine, we are providing 50,000 euros for your two wind turbines.« 
Because, of course, after 20 years, a wind turbine is at the end of its useful life, and it is stipulated to dismantle it.

Really? So I brought in several companies that specialize in dismantling wind turbines. Result: the minimum cost for a wind turbine (height: 80 meters) is 450,000 euros per turbine, at the expense of the landowner. What if he can’t pay? Since it is an industrial wind turbine, the State is turning against the owner and then against the municipality. I do a quick calculation: the overall project of my town of 200 inhabitants includes 7 wind turbines, that is 450,000 x 7 = 3,150,000 of debt for the town. It’s bankruptcy for everyone!

Then I wondered why this company wanted to put wind turbines in a place where there is so little wind. Answer: « Indeed, there is not enough wind, but we will build much higher wind turbines… 80 meters high ». Very well. For wind turbines that will only run 25% of the time, this is not very cost effective.

But how come pension funds are so interested in wind energy in France?
Very simple! In France, a law requires that the green energy of wind turbines be bought in priority twice the price of other energies (hydraulic, which is however completely green, does not have this privilege!) So, it is interesting for foreign investors, probably in full complicity with our government because, who pays this difference? … THAT’S US! Take a good look at your EDF bill, there is a small line indicating that we « participate in the development of green energy ». In fact, we are financing foreign shareholders.

Oh yes! I didn’t tell you everything! This energy is mainly intended for export.
Shareholders don’t care about that. I don’t! The development of wind power in France will cost 75 billion euros financed by ourselves to destroy our landscapes, our tourism, the value of our real estate and our farmland. Instead, with this money, the State could redistribute to each Frenchman a share to insulate his house with dignity. But that wouldn’t make the shareholders any money.

Pass it around, and think about it.

Under the guise of « GREEN », we are taken for granted…

M‑T.


Notes et références
  1. Les turbiniers les plus importants en France sont les Allemands de Senvion, Nordex et Enercon et les Danois de Vestas. Voir Souchay, Grégoire. « L’économie de l’éolien, de plus en plus concentrée, n’est pas alternative », Reporterre, 29 novembre 2017. https://reporterre.net/L‑economie-de-l-eolien-de-plus-en-plus-concentree-n-est-pas-alternative

  2. Souchay, Grégoire. « L’éolien signe la fracture entre deux visions de l’écologie », Reporterre, 27 novembre 2019. https://reporterre.net/L‑eolien-signe-la-fracture-entre-deux-visions-de-l-ecologie

  3. Vidalou, Jean-Baptiste. « L’éolien industriel, faussement écolo mais vraiment répressif », Reporterre, 2 février 2018. https://reporterre.net/L‑eolien-industriel-faussement-ecolo-mais-vraiment-repressif

  4. Ce genre d’entreprise emploie, notamment, des cabinets d’avocats dont la spécialité est de simplifier et d’accélérer les procédures d’implantation de l’éolien industriel. Voir Ibid.

  5. https://reporterre.net/Le-marche-de-l-eolien-en-France
  6. Desfhiles, Philippe. «Le marché de l’éolien en France est susceptible de corruption », Reporterre, 10 septembre 2014. https://reporterre.net/Le-marche-de-l-eolien-en-France

  7. Souchay, Grégoire. « Quel est l’impact des éoliennes sur l’environnement ? Le vrai, le faux », Reporterre, 30 novembre 2019.https://reporterre.net/Quel-est-l-impact-des-eoliennes-sur-l-environnement-Le-vrai-le-faux

  8. Ibid.
  9. Plassard, Thomas. « Pourquoi parle-t-on toujours des grosses éoliennes et jamais des petites ? », Reporterre, 22 septembre 2014. https://reporterre.net/Pourquoi-parle-t-on-toujours-des

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