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Spain

Spain

FEELING UNFAIRLY EXPLOITED

Jose Fuentes Pacheco, the new mayor of Tarifa sworn in in June, believes the citizens of Tarifa have been given a raw deal by the wind industry and plans to put that right. Pacheco says the town gets very little from its wind contract and revenues will increase.

As the summer drew to a close, the golden promise of Tarifa in southern Spain was once again beginning to shine for the wind industry. It seemed that access to the phenomenal winds which sweep the region was going to be made possible. After an 18-month hiatus, following a stop to development until the impact of more wind farms on this major bird migratory route had been assessed, European Union officials seemed ready to release subsidies for wind projects planned for Tarifa. A crucial bird study, tied to a moratorium on wind power development, was finally published and then came news that a second and equally decisive study, allowing development to go ahead, would be finalised by Christmas. Tarifa's teething problems were over, it seemed. Now, however, a new and daunting hurdle has emerged: Tarifa's feisty new mayor, the independent Jose Fuentes Pacheco, sworn in in June. He believes the citizens of Tarifa have been given a raw deal by the wind industry and plans to put that right. Windpower Monthly's Anthony Luke talked to Fuentes Pacheco at the Tarifa town hall.

Anthony Luke: Now that the problems facing wind power development in Tarifa -- the environmental and planning issues -- have almost been resolved, how do you envisage its future? Will Tarifa still play a major role in the realm of wind power?

Jose Fuentes Pacheco: Let's get this straight from the start. The town hall is in favour of wind power as long as it is planned and executed properly in every possible way, from impact reports to revenue payments. There is going to be none of the slap-dash development that existed before my time under the previous and, in my view, highly incompetent administration. Mismanagement was rife, from both the environmental and economic perspective. Where else in the industrialised world, for example, would you get a situation where people who live almost under wind power turbines have no electricity? Why is it that we are cash-strapped?

Are you suggesting that the former administration acted in collusion with prospective developers in granting siting permission?

No. I'm saying that in 1990 we were unaware of what wind power was all about and the industry blatantly took advantage of our inexperience. Nothing else. The countryside is now irreparably wrecked so we are going to have to make the most of it.

How are you going to go about that?

For a start we are going to study current contracts with wind farm owners to see if legally we can better the economic conditions regarding revenues for the town hall. Did you know that from current revenues we can only pay two-thirds of our yearly power bill? That we have an outstanding accumulated electricity bill of ESP 113 million? That we are thousands of millions of pesetas in debt? Yet the hills are alive with the sound of turbines. It's ridiculous and absurd.

xAnd newcomers?

From now on, we are going to be charging real money for use of public land on the basis of the best offer gets the best parcel of land as long as, of course, the projects abide by current environmental regulations and other considerations regarding visual and noise impacts. I can't tell you what kind of percentage we are going to be asking for, but it is certainly going to be higher than the current 0.8% of revenue we get now.

Aren't you afraid of developers moving elsewhere?

Given the kind of monies developers currently pay, we would have very little to lose if they did. But that is not going to happen because Tarifa is every developer's dream come true and there's lots of it.

Have you approached any of the wind firms currently operating in Tarifa?

I have spoken to Spanish firms and they are willing to discuss revenue increase, yes.

You have complained incessantly in the local press about the visual impact of the current wind farms. How are you going to remedy that?

When the developers decide to up grade the turbines currently deployed in Tarifa, we'll ensure that they keep to output agreed initially; you'll have a situation where instead of the 130 odd turbines one of the Tarifa developments now uses to produce 20 MW of power you'll have just 40, 500 kW machines, for example.

A lot of companies, especially domestic firms, complain they have been unfairly discriminated against as a result of the 1994 "moratorium" imposed by the regional government on wind power development in Tarifa. What is your side of the story?

The moratorium has given us a little breathing space, time enough for us to sit back and put the wind power development of Tarifa in perspective. If it had not been for the moratoria Tarifa would probably mirror the situation in Altamont Pass by now. We wouldn't have been able to see for the turbines. As it is, Kenetech managed to put up 90 turbines and Nordtank is currently putting another 12 in the ground despite the moratorium. If I had had anything to do with these new wind farms, I'd have forced the developers to hold like everyone else.

Yet some companies have invested considerable amounts of money in environmental research, especially regarding the raptors which have a history of colliding with wind turbines here. Kenetech, for example, is using mobile radar systems to detect oncoming birds, has signed a co-operation with the regional environmental agency (AMA) for the study of migratory birds, and plans to launch a triptych for visitors interested in the ornithology of the straits.

I am not acquainted with the technical aspects of their radar programme, but as far as the money donated for the raptor recovery programme is concerned, it's an insult, a pittance. Let's face it. Wind power means big business for big companies and business doesn't mind where it does business or who or what it hurts while doing it.

What then is your concept of the ideal wind farm?

Small, unobtrusive clusters of powerful turbines. Revenues in accordance with the use and abuse of the land they are sited on. The establishment of factories for the manufacture and assembly of wind turbines and accessories -- all within, and I really must insist on this point, the established environmental parameters.

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