It is a judicial guerrilla war that has lasted for sixteen years, an umpteenth episode of which is examined by the administrative court of appeal of Marseille, Wednesday March 31. The judges must rule on the validity of the environmental authorization granted to the 22 wind turbines 125 meters high which have been rotating since spring 2020 in the Var, about ten kilometers from the Sainte-Victoire mountain, classified as a World Heritage Site. ‘Unesco and the basilica of Saint-Maximin-la-Sainte-Baume, the most important religious building of Gothic style built in Provence.
“They were hastily installed illegally”, says Julien Lacaze, the president of the Sites et Monuments association, who hopes that justice will force the developer to redo his procedures. The case is therefore far from being closed, and the association, which has 70 proceedings of this kind in progress, has also just set up an online kitty to finance the costs of future lawyers.
Lots of appeals and lots of rejections
In February, she obtained from the Montpellier tribunal de grande instance the destruction of a park of seven wind turbines, in an area that is home to protected species, including royal eagles. ” A first in France », Assures Julien Lacaze, recalling that the Council of State had already invalidated three times the building permit.
In recent months, opponents of wind power, believe that the tide is starting to turn, a little, in their favor. But between 80 and 90% of appeals are unfavorable to them, recalls France Wind Energy (FEE), which brings together professionals in the sector. In any case, the hostility does not seem to be waning. More than two thirds of projects are attacked in court, despite attempts by the public authorities to curb the movement, including the removal of a level of jurisdiction to challenge.
Case law around the “encirclement effect”
“More and more prefects are realizing that the social acceptability of wind turbines is close to failure and are refusing projects”, assures Bénédicte Coste. In December, Marshal Leclerc’s granddaughter won a victory. The administrative court of Amiens has rejected the construction of eight wind turbines in its municipality of Airaines (Somme). He believes that it would help “Considerably worsen the perceptible encirclement effect from the nearest villages”, pointing out that there are already 240 machines within a radius of 20 kilometers.
“This decision will set a precedent and marks the beginning of awareness of what the inhabitants are experiencing, faced with these concrete towers of 1,000 to 2,000 tonnes, which industrialize the countryside. “, judge Bénédicte Coste.
Jean-Louis Bal, the president of the Renewable Energies Union (SER) does not deny the difficulties, but puts them in perspective. ” The “Antis” are always louder than “Pros” and public opinion remains very positive ”, even if, he says, the words of the President of the Republic, Emmanuel Macron, in Pau, in January 2020, explaining that onshore wind turbines were no longer the subject of a consensus, represent a “Major fact” and “Contributes to create an unfavorable climate which percolates in the administrations”.
The subject should be invited into the regional and presidential campaign. Xavier Bertrand, the president of Hauts-de-France, and declared candidate for the Élysée, thus proposes that any project of establishment be the subject of a local referendum. ” Wind turbines disfigure the landscape, rot the lives of residents and cost a lot of money », He explains. Its region alone concentrates 28% of installed capacity and the bill reached 1.93 billion euros in France. The debate promises to be agitated.
The trajectory is far from the planned objectives
“We say a lot of false things about wind turbines”, regrets nevertheless, Jean-Louis Bal. Today, the blades, which are made of composite materials, finish incineration, but from 2022, the new facilities can be fully recycled, assures the boss of the SER. Likewise, for the dismantling of wind turbines, developers are now required to excavate all of the concrete foundations.
“But the regulations do not go far enough”, regrets Xavier Batut, deputy La République en Marche, who unsuccessfully tabled several amendments to this effect. According to him, “If nothing is done, we can expect an ecological disaster like in the United States where wind turbines that are no longer used are abandoned. “
Last year, 1,105 MW of wind power were installed in France, bringing the fleet to 17,600 MW, with around 8,000 machines. It is below the objectives. The multi-year energy program (PPE) expects 34,000 MW in 2028, which means doubling the number of installations. A challenge.
Electricity production by sector in France in 2020 (source RTE)
Nuclear : 335.4 TWh (67.1% of the total)
Hydraulic: 65.1 TWh (13%)
Wind: 39.7 TWh (7.9%)
Fossil thermal (gas, coal, fuel oil): 37.6 TWh (7.5%), with 34.5 TWH of gas
Solar: 12.6 TWh (2.5%)
Bioenergy: 9.6 TWh (1.9%)
In total, production (550.1 TWh) fell by 7% in 2020, its lowest level in twenty years. Nuclear production is down 11.6% due to the health crisis and containment measures which have disrupted the reactor maintenance schedule.
Renewable energies represent 23.4% of the electricity produced. In total, thanks to nuclear power, French electricity is 93% carbon-free, argues RTE.