Crete the next electric power point for northern Europe?

or “The largest green island in the world” ?

(as one of the companies given approval to build some of the 1,000 wind turbines across Crete is promoting this project!)

Wind turbines at Petra Seli, West Crete

Wind turbines at Petra Seli, on the road to Sougia

The Greek Government has given approval for two wind power projects for Crete to Terna Energy for a total capacity of 1,077 MW and to Elica Group for 1,005 MW, a total for the two of more than 2,000 MW. In addition to that, approval was also given for the installation for a 70 MW solar thermal power station in Lasithi, in eastern Crete. Even using latest technology turbines of 2 MW the approval for the wind power project translates to more than 1,000 wind turbines across Crete!

The pending approval has been known for a few months by the locals in Crete who have been complaining about non consultation and getting ready for an all out war against the magnitude of the proposed wind power installations. Their complaints relate to the lack of consultation, the size of the project, about where the wind turbines might be installed and the potential damage to the environment.

Before discussing the merits of the opposing arguments, a look at one of the existing wind turbine sites will give us some idea of the potential impact on the environment. Elica Group, one of the two companies given the approval, has been operating 23 wind turbines at two locations, of total nominal power of some 19 MW (average unit power of 850KW). Pictures of the impact to the mountain top environment by the installation of 17 wind turbines outside Heraklion can be seen here:

Government policy:

The European Union has adopted a target of 20% renewable energy by 2020 and part of this target will be met by increased wind and solar power generation. The European commissioner for Energy Günther Oettinger, in an interview to Der Spiegel in discussing the problems that Germany faced with its policy change relating to nuclear power suggested that Europeans need stop thinking about state borders and coordinate their activities on renewable energy across borders. What he meant was that those that can produce renewable power in excess of their 20% target should contribute to the common EU group target.

Greece, in line with this thinking, and given its level of sunshine and plenty of suitable sites for wind power generation is currently planning to significantly expand these two areas of renewable power generation. Greece has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the EU to install over a 4 year period enough capacity to generate 10,000 MW electricity for export to EU countries at a cost of 19 billion euro (Project Helios).

Greece’s targets in late 2010, as set out in this policy paper (Page 11) were for 2,200 MW for solar generation and 7,500 MW for wind generation. Obviously following EU pressure, and as part of the “financial rescue” process, these targets were changed to provide for renewable energy outside Greece’s borders.

A presentation on the Helios project can be seen at this link.

As you will see the presentation states that the sites to be selected for solar power generation must be outside protected areas (Natura 2000 and Ramsar, see page 12) and on non arable land. A mechanism for value sharing (what would Greece get out of it) is still to be established (see pages 25 and 27).

Similar document regarding wind power generation I have been unable to find but at an interview the chairman of the Greek Scientific Company for Wind Power (Lobby front for the industry, see: ), stated that Greece had received applications for establishing wind power units that would generate some 70,000 MW of electricity although the state’s target was 7,500 MW (see above reference to the 2010 target). He then commented on the large number of the applied permits saying that in practice only about 15-20% of applications usually come to fruition. Given the four and a half times escalation of the target with solar power from 2010 to today, it is not unreasonable to expect a fivefold increase to the target from 7,500 MW to something like 35,000 MW, requiring some 15,000 to 20,000 wind turbines to be installed in Greece, and mostly in its southern areas, if one was to look at the map on page 18 of the Helios presentation.

Other issues covered in the discussion and relevant comments are:

  • Wind farms contribute positively to local tourism, becoming a new tourist attraction for visitors. I thought that this was rather silly! There is that much more to see in Crete, who would want to look at wind generators’ wings going round and round!
  • Would create permanent work opportunities (he estimated one job per one MW), some from the manufacturing of parts of the units that will be done in Greece and in general that it will generate employment opportunities in support services to these activities.  Sure, but how many of these jobs would go to Greeks rather than to existing employees of the foreign manufacturers of those wind turbines? And what would the impact be on jobs from the change of land use?
  • Land ownership problems, uncertainty of land ownership and traditional land use were glossed over.
  • The visual impact on the environment, the impact of cutting new roads leading to high elevation locations and how the existing legislation would protect the environment were not addressed satisfactorily.

You can see the interview and discussion, in Greek only, here

There was a positive impact that was not addressed at the above discussion and this is that the new energy sources will be able to replace some of the old, dirty, oil fired electricity generators on Crete. Whether this will provide cheaper electricity for the local economy remains to be seen. Some of the newer oil fired generators will need to be converted to gas to be brought to Crete as Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) to handle supply shortfalls.

This is a very complex issue that cannot be satisfactorily addressed in a short article, suitable for a blog. This is just an outline of the issues and hopefully, if there is interest, we could further discuss it here. But without an MOU, similar to that of Helios, and consultation with the locals this proposal continues to a big threat to the local environment.

The locals need information and assurances that will clarify the following matters:

  • What the overall number of wind turbines to be installed will be.
  • At what locations would these be installed, certainty that Natura 2000 areas will not be affected and consultation regarding new road openings to ensure a minimum damage to the environment.
  • Value sharing agreements between owners and operators, the Greek state and the locals (Municipalities and individuals that may be affected).
  • Power of veto to Municipalities if agreement on issues outlined above cannot be achieved.

Until these issues are clarified and agreed the people of Crete are justifiably very concerned. And so am I; I love the high mountains of Crete and I would hate to see all that beauty destroyed by the thoughtless introduction of green energy.

A similar message about concerns on environmental impact is given in a video relating to another pristine area, in Northern Greece, that is currently being threatened by the installation of a number of wind farms. The voice over is in Greek, but you will understand the message quite easily.


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9 Responses to Crete the next electric power point for northern Europe?

  1. DavidA says:

    I had heard of this project from another website to which, soome years ago, I used to contribute.
    I live in a town in what the British call a National Park, that is an area of outstanding beauty which needs its own powers to ensure that this beauty is enhanced rather than reduced. Somehow, approval was given for ONE mighty turbine to be installed near Glyndebourne Opera House, an opera house attached to a country house in the midst of an area of Outstanding Natural Beauty ( an official designation) itself within the National Park. Amazingly to me, the distinguished naturalist, Sir David Attenborough, spoke in favour of this installation at the Public Inquiry into the planning application for the turbine as an example of the sort of green development he feels the world needs. As a result there is now one spot on the South Downs which has, towering above it, this turbine. Some people say that it enhances the landscape, like a piece of modern art: others who live about a kilometre away say they are now kept awake by the perpetual hum emitted by the turbine and I have to confess that, having been for a walk on the Sussex Downs today and seen this piece of modern art rearing above the skyline on a perfect sunny day, that its artistic merit has not yet been found by me and I am doubtful of the merits of just one mighty turbine.
    Extrapolate this to Crete on a massive scale in some of the most majestic and beautiful landscape in Europe….
    One other point: has any consideration been given to what will happen of some of the magnificent birds of prey come near the turning turbines? I think I have seen somewhere a piece of film showing just such a collision and the vulture crashing to the ground.

    • Yorgos says:

      The incident of the vulture being hit by a wind turbine blade appears towards the end of the video at the end of the article, at 10:18 minutes. It happened on 28/10/2009 at Asterousa in SE Crete. The vulture survived and was taken to an animal shelter where it partially recovered; it had a broken wing and was limping. At the lower end of the webpage below you will see photos and an article in Greek about its recovery. (Use Google Translate to get an idea of what it says)

      The same article says that this was the fifth occasion that a vulture was hit by a wind turbine, the previous four died.

      An article from Crete reports of another vulture being killed at the same location in October 2010. ( ).

      Apparently birds of prey ride wind currents that are generated above the turbines and hover there while looking for food. This can be seen clearly in the same video as the vulture flies in a circular pattern above the turbine until it was hit by a blade.

      There is some work being done to deal with the issue of bird strike but I am not sure how effective this may be with birds of prey that like hovering above wind turbines.

      As for modern art! I better not say anything on this.

    • Jean says:

      The collision of the vulture and wind turbine is shown at the end of the video linked in the last paragraph of the article,

  2. Denis Petmezaki says:

    We have great concern that the ‘Kriti’ we know and love will be disadvantaged by this plan to build thermal, and perhaps more especially wind power generating plants on Crete’s beautiful mountains and hillsides largely for the supply of power to the mainland of Europe. If the permanent inhabitants of the Island wish for this then we must bow to their wishes but until convinced this is the case, I and my family remain strongly opposed to such bespoiling of this beautiful jewel of the Mediterranean.

  3. Peter Ward says:

    Just a follow up on the bird strike comments, the link below is to what I believe is the original incident filmed br paragliders, this clip shows the rescue of the bird. It makes harrowing viewing so good to bear in mind that the bird survived. It is hard not to adopt a NIMBY stance on the subject of Crete wind turbines but difficult to believe that the ultimate benefit of such development will rest with the people of Crete

  4. Yorgos says:

    An open letter from a Greek writer and journalist that was firstly published in the French financial newspaper Les Echos now has been translated into a number of other languages. It is thought provoking and I am certain that some readers might disagree with his point of view, nevertheless it is worth reading. The English translation is listed below:

    Greece. The first victim of the European Colonialism.
    If you disconnect Greece, in the end you are left with an olive tree, a vine and a ship. This means that with these three you can rebuild her.
    Odysseas Elytis

    Honorable European fellow citizens,

    I address to you and in particular to those of you who have visited Greece and have appreciated the Greek landscape and culture, in order to inform you of the destructive plans implemented in our country by the European leadership in concert with multinational corporations, investors and local politicians.
    The plan was simple in its conception and was put in effect equally simply and swiftly within just two years. Having led Greek citizens to pauperization and social destitution through numerous callous policies enforced in an utterly dictatorial way, these scrupulous neo colonialists now turn against the country’s natural and cultural resources. The notorious growth is the main pretence and bait, growth which will allegedly increase – underpaid – employment and income from the export of energy and mineral resources.
    Greece has been long divided into premium plots of land, sold off to investors without the slightest hesitation. Public areas within the urban fabrics, forests, mountains, beaches, islands are all sacrificed on the altar of development, which shall bring in revenues for the public sector – automatically reaped by lenders – but will mainly respond to the interests of private investors. In fact, it is planned for thousands of gigantic wind turbines and photovoltaic cells, producing energy exported to Europe, to be set up on millions acres of Greek land. At the same time, manufacturing units will be built in order to mine fossil, mineral and hydrocarbon, in land and sea. All these by utterly ignoring the local natural ecosystems and in many cases even violating the existing European environmental legislation, as seen fit to any Third World colony.

    Greece is being broken down, torn to pieces by the predator of Europe. And the name of it… green growth.

    Honorable European fellow citizens,

    It’s time for those who once met and enjoyed the Greek landscape to forget all about it. From now on, Greece will become the factory of Europe. Those who have read Greek poetry and literature, admired the Greek art, lived and loved the Greek culture should also forget everything. The Art created by Greeks throughout the centuries was inspired by the landscape, which is now being prostituted by our European partners. Those who have met Greece of tradition, of cafés, of ouzo, of fairs should erase it from their mind. The Greek soul for centuries fermented over the rough mountains of the mainland and the big blue of the Aegean has surrendered to the caterpillars of development.

    This was not the Europe we dreamed of, honorable European fellow citizens. Thus, even in this final moment, I appeal to you, urging you to join our resistance, realizing that your countries will soon follow.

    Thank you.
    Yianis Makridakis, novelist

  5. Yorgos says:

    Germany’s panic for alternative energy supplies can explain the pressure on Greece to provide electricity at huge environmental costs. See article from Der Spiegel:,1518,816669,00.html

  6. Pingback: Alternatives « Preserve the Middle Nile

  7. Maria says:

    I live in Chania Province and can attest to both strong wind and fierce sun giving possibilities for renewable energy. I can see the wind turbines in the south when walking our dogs. I think they are beautiful—BUT—I agree with the posts above. What pieces of land will be chosen? Who will gain employment? How will wildlife, both fauna and flora, be protected? WHO WILL PROFIT? Consult the electorate—not the politicians—for they are seemingly corrupt.
    Yiannis Makridanis help your people to do something so that the outcome is the best for them.

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