Another power station threatens Tokaj

  • Wednesday 19 September 2007

Winemakers in Hungary’s Tokaj region fear a power station will be built on their doorstep.

Hungarian energy company BHD Hoeromu has been authorised to proceed with a 50 megawatt bio-mass power station in Szerencs, near Tokaj. The project is worth 35bn Forint (£968m).

This plan comes after an announcement in the summer that a coal-burning plant would be build in nearby Slovakia. While the Hungarian government was against the Slovakian plant, it has approved the one within its own borders.

Locals fear the impact of 20,000 lorries a year transporting fuel from 80-100km away could far outweigh any of the benefits derived from the plant’s organic strategy.

In particular, emissions may interfere with the botrytis that is critical for the production of sweet wine.

‘We fear the emissions will affect the micro-climate,’ said Laszlo Meszaros, head of the Tokaji Renaissance Company and managing director of the Disznókõ estate. ‘Particularly the morning mists that help with the development of botrytis. Nobody has studied this yet.’

‘It’s a huge building that will dominate the landscape,’ said Meszaros. ‘Winemakers are extremely concerned about congestion and pollution from all the lorries constantly driving through with fuel.’

The privately funded plant will supply electricity to power companies throughout the region.

Meszaros told decanter.com that the plant itself was ‘probably a good idea’ but that the proposed location was misguided.

‘It will have ”green” emissions from burning straw and other agricultural by-products,’ he said. ‘But the problem is that the owners couldn’t sell power to the region where the fuel is produced, so they decided to build it in Szerencs instead. ’

Meszaros said that petitions have been registered with the authorities. A petition has been sent to UNESCO, appealing for intervention on the grounds that Tokaj is a world heritage site.

‘We’ve demonstrated against this at length,’ said Isabella Zwack of Dobogó Winery. ‘We’ve spoken with the President and the Minister of Agriculture. I really hope the worst can be avoided.’

The plant is one of 10 planned for construction around the country. BHD Hoeromu's CEO Otto Hujber could not be reached for comment.

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