The administrative branch of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health has long experience of how people who are worried about their health have to be taken into consideration. We find that wind power construction and its acceptability would best be promoted by a careul environmental impact assessment and careful consideration of where wind power plants should be built, not by placement of power plants too close to habitation and disparagement of the views of people living in the vicinity. In our view the acceptability of wind power construction would best be promoted by generally acceptable ways of operation related to planning and construction and as reliable impact assessment as possible so as to make the nearby residents convinced that no hazards will occur.
Accelerating the construction of wind power plants and simplifying the impact assessments would probably increase the environmental and health hazards caused by wind power. Therefore, and based on the contacts from municipalities, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health has become more active inbringing up the issue of harms linked with wind power. This process of becoming more active is linked with the requirements for prevention of environmental health hazardslaid down in the Health Protection Act, and by no means to objection to wind power.
In its opinions on the regional land use plans the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health has also taken a stand on the buffer zones between wind power plants and habitation. The Ministry has stated that a buffer zone of 500 meters between habitation and a wind power plant is all too short and that the distance should be clearly greater. The Ministry has suggested as the rule of thumb that the distance should be roughly 10 times the polar altitude of the power plant. The real sites of the power plants or the type and size of the power plants arenot yet known in the context of the land use plan. Therefore the Ministry proposed 2 km as the buffer zone. In this way the hazards of power plants could with great probability be avoided. Now a buffer zone of 2 km is referred to in discussions as the absolute minimum distance, which was not the purpose in the Ministry’s opinions. Wind power plants can be built closer than that but then the impact assessment should be careful and assertive and be based on reliable given values. Power plants should not be built within a distance shorter than 2 km without a comprehensive health impact assessment.
It has been annoying to follow the discussion that aims at promotion of additional construction of wind power in Finland and where views of worried citizens have not been taken into consideration. The actors promoting wind power construction should understand that no economic or political objectives should be placed above the requirements for individuals’ health and wellbeing, and that people’s worries cannot be removedby justifying wind power construction byclimate policy or economic objectives – rather the opposite. The worries can only be removed by well-done impact assessments and well implemented projects in connection with which the nearby residents have been genuinely heard and their worries have been taken
into consideration. The next few years will show if there is desire to understand this matter and how wind power construction will succeed or not.