Plan to build nine large wind turbines with an electricity producing capacity of 32 megawatts scrapped due to damage to the landscape, risk to several rare birds and possible noise hazardsSend in e-mailSend in e-mail

File photo: A wind turbine
File photo: A wind turbine.

Zafrir Rinat 12.10.2020

A national committee has decided to reject an appeal that the entrepreneurs behind a wind turbine plan in northern Israel filed against a decision not to approve their initiative. 

The National Planning and Building Council Appeals Committee decided that building turbines in the Ramat Menashe region would have a negative effect on the environment, including damage to the landscape, a risk to several rare birds and possible noise hazards. 

The plan was promoted by Energix, which planned to build nine large wind turbines with an electricity producing capacity of 32 megawatts, on agricultural land in Kibbutz Ein Hashofet in the Ramat Menashe district. The area designated for the plan is 1,600 dunams (400 acres).

Three years ago, the Northern District Planning and Building Committee decided not to approve the plan to allow the public to voice objections, due to its negative environmental impact. Energix appealed the decision. 

The appeals committee heard the positions of the entrepreneurs, the regional committee and the Megiddo Regional Council, which also opposed the plan, and ultimately rejected the appeal.

The appeals committee referred to the various environmental effects of the plan, which were also examined in a survey conducted by Energix. The committee concluded that the decision of the regional planning committee regarding the real influence on the Ramat Menashe region, which the National Master Plan defines as an “overall landscape,” means that it is a unique landscape and that any development plans that harm it should be avoided. The regional committee also ruled that the plan could have a negative impact on the definition of the region as a biosphere (sustainable coexistence between man and nature), which has even been recognized by UNESCO.

Another reason for rejecting the plan was the noise and flickering hazards caused by turbines. Flickering is defined as a shadow over the area resulting from the turbine blades, which is a nuisance for residents. Regarding the noise, the committee noted that in order not to exceed the permitted levels, the activity of the turbines would have to be interrupted for significant periods of time, thus negatively affecting their electricity production. The committee said that the flickering would exceed the recommended level.

The regional committee also rejected the plan due to the damage wind turbines cause to birds found in the region or passing through during migration. Their main concern was the lesser kestrel, which is in danger of extinction in Israel. Energix claimed that only three to six kestrels would be harmed during a nesting season, but the appeals committee said that this number is far greater than the limit recently determined in the National Master Plan for Energy – not to damage more than 0.1 kestrels annually.

In its summary, the committee also mentioned the possibility that moving the plan forward could be approved, with changes to reduce its environmental impact being introduced afterward. The committee wrote: “The changes required to make the plan suitable for submission are substantial. And even if it’s possible, it in effect means preparing a new plan and a renewed survey. Therefore we did not see fit to order the submission of the plan.”

The appeals committee decision reflects the complexity of approving plans for producing electricity from wind in Israel due to environmental concerns. The dilemma exists in other places as well, including Ramat Sirin, where another plan was rejected, the Yatir Hills and the Golan Heights.