For centuries windmills were an essential part of life in the Netherlands, pumping water, cutting wood and milling wheat.
But today’s electricity-producing wind turbines are less popular.
“They look hideous on the landscape. I find they spoil it,” said one Amsterdam woman.
The city has set out to change her mind. Amsterdam hopes to double the amount of energy they get from wind power in the next 10 years, making it 30 percent of their total usage. So officials have started a charm offensive, aiming to increase public acceptance of the huge spinning blades.
“We think we can be successful in our policy if the wider public accepts that this form of sustainable energy is good,” said Kees Diepenveen, a city councilman who spearheads the promotional effort in the north of the city.
Until recently, getting people to accept wind turbines wasn’t a major issue, because they were placed far from residential areas. But the new ones are planned closer to houses, and residents have started to complain.
“It depends on where they are, right. Not a good idea in my backyard,” said one man who lives in the city. “They should put them in places where they don’t bother people, because they pollute the horizon.”
The city is using history as a guide in its strategy to make wind turbines more popular. Officials emphasize that windmills first appeared in the Netherlands in 1390. And they’ve created an energy cooperative, much like those used to run the country’s windmills in the 17th and 18th centuries. Residents can buy in for about $69 a year, the cooperative said, and save as much as twice that on their energy bills.
Diepenveen, the city councilman, said he’s sure the city’s campaign is already working—because it’s worked on him. He used to dislike wind turbines.
But now, he said, “I’ve accepted them. I think they can be beautiful elements in our landscape.”
Amsterdam hopes that more residents will come to agree.