January 19, 2018 / 1:45 PM / a year ago

Wild reindeer foil wind farm plan in southern Norway

OSLO (Reuters) - Norway rejected construction of a wind farm on Friday over concerns it could harm wild reindeer in southern mountains that are home to the last remaining viable populations in Europe.

The 120 megawatt(MW) project in Bygland municipality aimed to boost business in the sparsely-populated region, but it would be within a designated reindeer-rich national reserve, according to the energy ministry.

Norway has almost 35,000 reindeer in its southern mountains, the last redoubt of sustainable populations of the animals in Europe, according to the Norwegian Environment Agency.

Roads, railways, reservoirs and holiday cabins have raised pressure on the herds. In one week in November last year, about 110 reindeer were killed by eight freight trains in Norway.

Mostly in the Arctic north, Sami indigenous people farm reindeer to sell meat and skin. Climate change, with more frequent freezes and thaws of winter pastures, has put pressure on reindeer numbers there as well.

Interest for wind farms in Norway’s south has risen in recent years. In 2017, the country licensed the construction of two onshore wind farms in the area, with a total combined capacity of 141 MW.

Norway has a power production surplus and is a net exporter to the Netherlands and its Nordic neighbors. About 99 percent of its domestic energy needs are fed with electricity generated in its hydropower dams.

Reporting by Lefteris Karagiannopoulos; editing by Mark Heinrich

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