The largest wind farm on land in the Netherlands has been opened in the Wieringermeer. For the owner of the park, the company Vattenfall, it means a party, a bitter pill for some local residents. They do not feel sufficiently taken seriously in their objections to the park.
One of the things that bothers them is that a lot of green power goes to a Microsoft data center. The mills can generate electricity for 370,000 households, but most of the electricity goes to that data centre, in the nearby Middenmeer.
In the wind farm there are 82 windmills spread over an area of 15 by 20 kilometres, where it often blows hard. They are the result of the policy in Noord-Holland to remove loose windmills and replace them for larger ones in tight line setups.
Farmer Han Lammers has a view of many of the new mills. “Very well, that green power,” he says, “but its a pity that much of that power goes to Microsoft, to that data center, and we, as a neighborhood, benefit far too little from it.”
There should have been more say, he says. He did object, along with 1100 others. “But objecting to a giant is simply very difficult as a little thumb.”
The problem of the flow of data centers is not only a problem in the Wieringermeer. In many more places in the country, multinationals conclude contracts for the purchase of green electricity. There are now 57 data centers in Noord-Holland alone and there are advanced plans for even more.
But Vattenfall believes that critical questions should not be asked to them, but to the Dutch government. After all, it determines whether and under what conditions companies can establish themselves in the Netherlands. Ruben Lindenburg of Vattenfall says: “The only thing we are concerned with is greening the energy supply and everyone can use that, including Microsoft. And also the households here in the Wieringermeer.”
In addition, the company allows the neighbourhood to benefit. There is an arrangement whereby people who live within a radius of 1250 meters from the mills get money transferred. And there is a fund for the community, from which, for example, money can go to a pool in the area.
According to Vattenfall, the question of whether green electricity should not be entirely reserved for the Dutch population, because otherwise the climate targets might be jeopardised must also be answered by the government. “A debate about the arrival of large energy consumers to the Netherlands and its impact on sustainability objectives is, in our view, a broader, social debate, which is not specifically about Vattenfall or Windfarm Wieringermeer.”
Within provincial politics, there was a discussion, but according to the province, new green electricity projects will now come about differently, with greater involvement of citizens. The SP asked questions about it last summer to the provincial administration. For example, whether the province shares the fear that the support for renewable energy will be under pressure, as a result of the large amount of electricity that goes to multinationals.
The province replied: “No, we are not afraid of that because we are doing things fundamentally differently now.” Sustainable energy plans are now being made by regions in the so-called Regional Energy Strategies, making them “bottom-up”.
Chopping in the sand
But according to Sijas Akkerman of the Nature and Environment Federation Noord-Holland, the wind farm Wieringermeer has indeed affected the support for new green energy. “Many people and municipalities are now putting the heels in the sand. And logical, too. Because the money goes to the pensions of people in Scandinavia, the flow goes to an American multinational, and the people here are looking at the mills.”
Another big question is, says Akkerman: should these data centres be in one of the most densely populated countries in Europe? Achieving enough green energy is difficult enough, he says. “In any case, it should not be the case that whoever pays the most gets the green electricity.”