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Reindeer herders want Norwegian wind farm demolished

Reindeer herders want Norwegian wind farm demolished

| Text: Bjørn Lønnum Andreassen, photo: Statkraft

Europe’s largest onshore wind power plant, built near Trondheim in Norway by Fosen Vind, could face dismantling after a supreme court win by indigenous reindeer herders.

Norway’s supreme court ruled that the indigenous Sámi’s cultural rights were overruled when two of the three wind farms in Fosen were built. Silje Karine Muotka, President of the Sámi Parliament of Norway, wants more than an apology.  

“The supreme court has concluded that the human rights of reindeer herders in Fosen have been violated. I expect the Norwegian government to apologise to reindeer herders for the injustice they have faced, and that the government will fully follow up on this ruling. Another Fosen must never be allowed,” she says. 

Silje Muotka

Silje Karine Muotka, President of the Sámi Parliament of Norway, visited Fosen reindeer district and wanted to learn more about the process after the reindeer herders won their supreme court case. The then Minister of Petroleum and Energy Marte Mjøs Persen was also present. Photo: Sametinget.

Muotka has congratulated Terje Aasland (Labour) with his new role as Minister of Petroleum and Energy, while also asking for a meeting as soon as possible to revisit the Fosen case. 

A breach of human rights

Eirik Larsen is a political advisor to the Sámi Executive Council – which corresponds to the Norwegian government – and he is a trained lawyer.  

“Reindeer herders and the Sámi Parliament have fought the planning and construction of wind power plants in Fosen and warned that human rights were going to be breached. Fosen Vind had to expropriate the rights to these areas because reindeer herders had the right of use there. This right is just as strong as property rights,” he says.

“The Sámi Parliament has said the Norwegian state must follow up the supreme court ruling by removing operating rights for two of the three plants in Fosen. The Ministry of Petroleum and Energy has so far failed to do this. It has said the supreme court ruling does not say anything about what should happen with the wind power plant,” says Eirik Larsen. 

Not forced to dismantle 

Geir Fuglseth is the Communication Manager with Statkraft, owners of Fosen Vind. He confirms that the court did not take a position on what would happen to the power plant. 

“The court ruled that the wind power plant, without satisfactory mitigating environmental measures, would have a considerable negative effect on the Sámi people’s cultural rights in Fosen in the longer term, which would represent a breach of international law. That is why Fosen Vind wants, in line with the proposed process from the Ministry of Petroleum and Oil, to find sufficient mitigating measures which in the longer term will secure the economic basis for reindeer herders’ activities and their cultural rights,” says Fuglseth.

Neither he nor the ministry wants to be more concrete than that for now. 

Return to nature

Many cubic metres of concrete has been used to construct the foundations for the tall turbines, and kilometres of road have been built to aid the construction of the plant in the mountains. If the operating rights are taken away, the turbines, foundations and roads must be removed so that the area can be returned to its natural state.    

Yet it is equally probable that the operating rights are extended, fears Eirik Larsen at the Sámi Parliament.

Storheia wind park is the largest of the Fosen Vind parks. It was Norway’s largest when it opened in February 2020. Storheia has 80 turbines creating a total of 288 MW of power, explains Geir Fuglseth.

“The Fosen wind parks are expected to last for 25 years, which is also the duration of their operating licence,” says Fuglseth.

“The operating rights stipulate that when the plant is decommissioned, the operator must remove the plant. The area will be returned as far as possible to its natural state,” he explains.

One of the operating licence’s preconditions was that an operator must, within the end of the twelfth operating year, send the Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate NVE a concrete proposal. This must include a deposit that would cover the cost of the removal of the plant and of the return of the site to nature. In other words, this is a guarantee to cover the tidying up cost.   


The global industry group Vestas delivered the wind turbines in Fosen. The group employs 29,000 people and its vision is to become a leader in sustainable energy solutions. Vestas says much of the materials used in Fosen are recyclable. 

“Right now, our most common wind turbines are 85% recyclable. This means at least 85% of the turbine’s weight can be completely recycled or reused. The remaining challenge is to recycle the wind turbine blades. These are made from a composite material that mainly consists of epoxy and fibreglass. 

"This material is lightweight, very strong and very durable, which makes it difficult to recycle in a cost-efficient manner. Recycling it would also mean higher CO2 emissions than what you would get from using new raw materials in a new production. We are working towards creating zero-emission wind turbines by 2040,” Vestas says in an email.

UPDATE: Norwegian Government apologises

Foto: Björn Lindahl

On 2 March, the Norwegian Minister of Oil and Energy Terje Aasland apologised to the Fosen Sámi reindeer herders, acknowledging that the Norwegian government had violated their human rights. The apology came after demonstrators for several days blocked the entrance to the Ministry. Among the demonstrators was pop singer and actor Ella Marie Hætta Isaksen (picture above).

"Compared with how little has happened until now, 500 days after the Supreme Court verdict, this is a big step forward," she said.


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