The construction of the wind farm will create employment opportunities for local contractors and service providers as facilities are constructed and preparation work is completed. Both residents and tourist operators are generally positive towards wind energy and believe that this type of energy generation fulfils present day environmental requirements for sustainable energy production. However, they do have concerns about the visual impact of the wind turbines.
The three proposals are located within the Rangárþing ytra Municipality and the Skeiða & Gnúpverjahreppur Municipality and on the boundary of the Ásahreppur Municipality. The Rangárþing ytra Municipality is the highest populated municipality within the area with over 1,500 residents. Agriculture is one of the largest sources of employment in the area in addition to industrial fields and public administration. Employment in trade and services has increased within the municipality in the last few years, and the tourism industry has flourished.
The Skeiða & Gnúpverjahreppur Municipality, which has over 500 residents, relies on agriculture as its primary source of income. Two of Landsvirkjun’s hydropower stations (Búrfell and Sultartangi) are located within the municipality.
The Ásahreppur Municipality is the smallest of the three with only 200 residents. The municipality mostly relies on agriculture for income, but four of Landsvirkjun’s hydropower stations (Búðarháls, Hrauneyjafoss, Sigalda and Vatnsfell) are located within the area as well.
The most popular tourist spots by the proposed Búrfell Wind Farm include the Þjórsárdalur Valley, Rangárbotnar, Hekla Volcano and Dómadalsleið. Áfangagil and Hólaskjól are also popular tourist spots that are attractive to equestrians and ramblers.
Tourist operators have a particular interest in the effects of the wind farm on the areas to the north and east of Búrfell for the following reasons:
- The area is located at the edge of the highland area and is an entrance to the highlands.
- The roots of the Hekla Volcano, which is a popular tourist attraction, has great value to tourist operators.
- Tourist operators believe that the wilderness and desert qualities of the physical landscape in the area are unique characteristics of Iceland and are a valuable source in their field.
Local tourist operators’ future expectations for the functionality of the area differ. Some operators see the potential for tourist activity within the area to the east and north of Búrfell, whereas others merely see it as a connective route between other areas.
All respondents were familiar with the proposed construction work at the Búrfell Wind Farm. The respondents were generally positive towards the research wind turbines, but most of the respondents had negative opinions of the development of the Búrfell Wind Farm. Some respondents had not yet formed an opinion on the matter. Most of the respondents believed that the Búrfell Wind Farm would not have a significant impact on travel routes used by tourism companies within the area today. However, they believed that the number of wind turbines would affect tourists’ experience of the area.
Tourists expressed various opinions on development and construction of facilities in the area that were both general and specific to individual tourist spots. Satisfying the suggestions of all respondents would be impossible. However, research shows that tourists visiting highland areas are mostly attracted to them because of their ‘untouched wilderness’ appeal as well as the beauty, landscape, views and diversity of the area.
There is also a variety of guest accommodation close to the proposed Búrfell Wind Farm in Hrauneyjar, Hólaskógur, to the west of the Þjórsá River and Áfangagil at the root of Valafell. Tourists often seem to stop at the crossroads of the Dómadals and Landvegur Roads. The Hekla Volcano is a popular spot for photographers and a number of information boards can be found in the area.
The results of the opinion survey show that the construction of wind turbines will have no effect on a majority of respondents traveling within the area (60%). Tourists traveling in the area will experience a limited impact, as 84% of those individuals are classified as service minded individuals and general tourists. Only 16% of tourists fall into the nature lover category, creating a clear minority. However, the results of the surveys indicate that the Búrfell Wind Farm will affect some tourists’ experiences in the area. Those expected to be impacted the most include tourist groups, ramblers and equestrians, those visiting the area for a wilderness experience and nature lovers.
The opinion survey showed that 84% of the individuals travelling in the area were either connected to tourist services or independent tourists. The proposed plans for the project will, according to the survey, not have an impact on the travel habits of 60% of tourists travelling in the area, and 7% would actually become more attracted to the area as a result of the proposed development. Approximately 66% believed that the area would be less attractive. In light of these results, the impact on tourism within the area is considered to be somewhat negative, as only a relatively small number of tourists would not travel to the area if the project were to go ahead.