Nearly 35,000 wild reindeer make their home in the southern mountains of Norway – “the last remaining viable populations in Europe,” according to Reuters. And the country recently prioritized the animals over energy, rejecting construction of a 120 megawatt (MW) wind farm over concerns it could harm the animals.
The wind farm had the potential to boost business in the Bygland municipality, a sparsely-populated area. But it also would have been located in a designated national reserve where reindeer live, according to the country’s energy ministry; subsequently, Norway nixed construction.
Other pressures on the herds of wild reindeer include holiday cabins, roads, reservoirs, and railways. In November 2017, eight freight trains killed around 110 reindeer in Norway over a period of one week. TreeHugger said development has encroached on reindeer habitat, and the creatures are suffering. That’s not to mention climate change; more frequent winter pasture freezes and thaws have also had a negative impact on the reindeer population, particularly in the Arctic north, according to Reuters.
The outlet reported around 99 percent of Norway’s domestic energy needs are met by electricity generated in hydropower dams. Generating more power than they can utilize, the country is a net exporter to other Nordic nations and the Netherlands. In 2017, Norway licensed construction for two wind farms with a 141 MW combined capacity in the south of the country, as that region has grown more interested in wind energy in the last few years. So perhaps it wasn’t too difficult to make the call to prioritize reindeer over clean energy. TreeHugger referred to it as an inspiration: having enough renewable energy infrastructure that a country can decide in favor of wildlife when considering a new project.