Updated on Tuesday, September 21, 2021 – 01:33
“Renewables yes, but not like that“. This is the motto that echoes in all corners of the rural Spanish world. Organizations such as Asociación Salvemos los Campos, Alianza Energa or Territorio Aliente – a group of 152 organizations – are just some of them. They all share the same problem: the impact of megaprojects of renewable energy in their municipalities. “We want a distributed model, not macroprojects that are still mere urban speculation of hundreds of hectares”, sentence Juan Portillo, spokesperson for Save the Fields.
It is the case of the complex Helena Solar, developed by three multinationals: the German companies Viridi and Prodiel and the Spanish company Solaria. The photovoltaic energy megapark will be distributed in seven projects that add up to a total of 2,000 hectares in the municipality of Mntrida, in the province of Toledo, and covers up to 23% of its municipal term; the equivalent of 3,000 football fields. The municipality has spoken out against it due to the negative impact it has on its biodiversity, landscape, and economy.
“The achievement of these projects will mean the destruction of a good part of the Mntrida fields, a serious environmental damage to its ecosystems, the worsening of the quality of life of its inhabitants, and as a consequence, an economic damage for all sectors of the town. , whose future will be mortgaged to the designs of three multinationals “, they affirm in a statement. Specifically, the project implies having to uproot olive groves and holm oaks for the installation of the plates, as well as the removal of the vegetation cover to prevent fires. Neighbors warn that this will cause soil erosion and that the damage will be irreparable. In addition, Mntrida is home to “sensitive species” such as the red kite and, in the case of the black vulture, the area is crucial for their conservation.
“There is an urbanization that will be completely surrounded by these plants”, denounces Portillo. “Viridi’s projects cover 76 hectares of olive groves and 92 of vineyards, what is the point of decarbonization if it consists of loading biodiversity and CO2 sinks?” Also the transport of this energy is in the sights of the associations and neighbors. Recently, 38 municipalities through which 180 kilometers of high tension pass, rose up against these towers.
The mayor of Mntrida himself, Alfonso Arriero, alert of a ‘boom’ of renewable energies. Ensures that municipalities find out about projects when they have already been presented, and only when they are published in the BOE I knowthey can present submissions. In addition, the mayor explains that in the case of Castilla-La Mancha the regulations are old, and they still do not contemplate projects of these magnitudes. “The problem we have is that the subsidiary regulations we have are from the year 85 and in that year there were no renewable energies. There is a legal gap that is difficult to solve,” he specifies.
In this sense, wind farms also raise differences among the local population. In Spain, the 2033 wind farms in its territory generate about 45.5 GW of power, most of them installed in Castilla Len (11.3 GW). In this autonomous community in which El Bierzo is located, a mountainous region in the northwest, leons in which they have risen 13 wind installations and that has the opposition of several neighborhood organizations.
“We call them elic industrial estates”, he points out. Susana dvila, spokesperson for the neighborhood platform, Sustainable Rural. “The impact is not only visual, but there are also health consequences,” he says. He denounces that the companies Enelgreen Power and Statkraft want to build 13 new projects in the area, some of them less than a kilometer from population centers, such as Busmayor or Corrales. “It’s like living in an airport“, he complains. For the residents, these projects could also shake the cornerstone of rural tourism in the region: silence.
“The conditions that wind turbine noise can generate are many and insufficiently studied”, highlights an engineer who is an expert in renewables. “One of the few studies carried out, prepared by Danish scientists in 2019, linked the noise of wind turbines with sleep disturbances and a higher consumption of antidepressants.”
Expropriations and speculation
“I was tricked into signing and now I regret it” he laments Jos Blanque, farmer of organic products. “I signed a lease for 35 years for three plots, but when the presentation of the project came out in the BOE I found out that they had included another eight without my consent,” he says. Juan assures that they offered to lease his land but that no one explained to him that his plot could be declared of public utility.
Now he is threatened by the expropriation of their farmland for the construction of the Ququima photovoltaic project, in the municipalities of Baza and Caniles. “They accuse us of being climate change deniers, but I had my solar panels for self-consumption, which is what the European Union is asking, not to take away our way of life, “says the farmer.
The inhabitants of these municipalities denounce that the project, of 700 hectares and 200 MW of power, will not only cause great environmental damage, and a consequent deterioration in the quality of life of its inhabitants, but also serious economic damage. “I am preparing my children for the generational change but when they expropriate us we will not have enough land that is required to grant us the subsidies for ecological farmers,” he explains.
In this sense, one of the great concerns of these peoples is the land use changes in land transfers since, to install a renewable energy park, the type of use must be changed to industrial. “Once the lands give the urban relocation, the soil changes from agricultural to industrial and that will be very difficult to reverse, in addition these companies do not want to exploit these plants, they want to cede them to investment funds,” explains Portillo.
“The procedure is very unfair because there is no public participation, in the best of cases you find out because you run into the BOE and you have only 30 days to organize yourself, and if you skip the deadlines you are out,” he says. Luis Bolonio, spokesperson for Aliente. In addition, in the case of an administrative dispute, it is necessary to have a legally constituted association that is at least two years old. “If you lose, they can sentence you to pay costs, and if what is requested is the precautionary stoppage of the project, they ask for a guarantee of money,” he explains. Because of this, Save the Fields It has had to start a microfinance campaign to face possible legal confrontations and from Aliente a demonstration has been called in Madrid for October 16.
Ministry spokespersons have confirmed that “it is impossible to carry out an accounting of how many renewable energy projects are being approved.” The reason for this is that, unless they occupy the territory of more than one CCAA, the Competition for projects of less than 50 MW is held by the Autonomous Communities, while the parks that exceed this power pass through the filter of the Ministry. In any case, MITECO assures that “the volume of electrical projects that request permission to be executed is much higher than those that are completed and built.”
However, the organizations warn of the “danger of legal fraud” on the part of the companies when presenting the projects to the administrations. “What many companies do is subdivide a large project into several projects of less than 50 MW so as not to have to go through the control of the Ministry. Thus, environmental studies associated with each plot are presented in the Autonomous Community, which is a deception because the real impact is that of the project as a whole, “explains Bolonio.
Scientific community alert
In that sense, there is the scientific community makes the same complaint. On December 11, 23 Spanish scientists and experts published a letter in Science magazine in which they state that developers are promoting their projects on soils of high ecological value and little economic value, “exacerbated” by the fragmentation of large projects in plants. smaller, resulting in the “metering” of their actual environmental impact.
Coinciding with the date of publication of the letter, MITECO in turn published a mapping tool of environmental sensitivity to zoning the territory, based on the implementation of these various technologies. However, these maps they are not binding, for which Portillo maintains that “they are useless.”
“Projects are being published in the BOE that should not have been admitted for processing and we are doing the work of the administration. The Solaria project in Mntrida was published without having completed a full year of environmental study, which is an irregularity” , he assures.
The race for decarbonization
In this sense, the Government has prepared the Integrated National Energy and Climate Plan 2021-2030 (PNIEC), which describes the strategy to decarbonize the Spanish economy, sent to Brussels last January. One of your goals is produce 89 GW of wind and photovoltaic energy by the year 2030, however, there are currently 58.87 GW installed and some 147.1 GW with access permission to Red Elctrica de Espaa (REE). “What is happening is a trickle of projects, they leave every day. Nobody, neither the communities nor the Ministry knows how many are leaving,” explains Bolonio.
Why is this mega-plant model being promoted instead of legislative changes to facilitate self-consumption, which is what will benefit us and lower the electricity bill? “Bolonio wonders. For Portillo there are many other unknowns.” When the contracts end in 30 years, what will happen to the land? They have the obligation to return them as they were before, but if they destroy the environment, that will be impossible and also, these plants have hardly any operators, so they do not even generate employment. If they occupy our fields and vineyards, if they ruin our landscape, what are we supposed to live on? “
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