Electricity windfall for village

By Henry Samuel

Photo / AP
Photo / AP

In an age of austerity when many French towns are groaning under debt, the mayor of a once-poor village now has so much money he does not know how to spend it and is asking locals for ideas.

Arfons, in the southwestern Tarn region, has seen its budget rise fivefold in the past three years from €400,000 to €2.3 million - €12,169 ($18,673) per person - thanks to 11 wind turbines that were built in the area in 2009 and have surpassed all production estimates.

Alain Couzinie, the Mayor of Arfons (population 189), said: "It's like it has rained gold on the village. It's a miracle." With two megawatts of capacity per wind farm, the energy output was the "equivalent of the consumption of a town of 50,000 inhabitants", he said.

For the first two years, the French state "forgot" to pay the village tax revenue from the use of the huge white turbines on wooded land it owns, meaning the windfall has only just started pouring in.

Baptiste Dubois, a villager, told TFI TV news: "We've hit the jackpot. It's EuroMillions on a village scale.

Lots of people were initially against the wind farms with people claiming it would destroy local flora and fauna, but that's not the case."

Arfons held a public meeting at which the mayor sought suggestions on how to spend the money, which also comes from state subsidies linked to the wind farms.

Couzinie had expected grand schemes such as calls for a new sports stadium or swimming pool.

Instead, the 70 villagers present were more interested in the pressing issues of sterilising stray cats, tackling Asian hornet nests and removing pigeon droppings. They also felt the money should go into sprucing up the old village telephone box, adding more flowers to municipal pots and installing speed bumps.

The mayor does, however, have grander plans in mind, including getting the town hall to buy the village's only cafe-hotel-restaurant, which closed a few months ago, at an estimated cost of €800,000.

- Daily Telegraph UK

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