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Spain

Wind wise locals hold key to future -- Suspicious but learning in La Janda

The citizens of the Andalusian region of La Janda were so shocked by the haphazard sprawl of turbines which grew across the coastal hills of neighbouring Tarifa a decade ago that only now are they considering using their own considerable wind resource. A local association of neighbours and environmentalists has become a key player in a plan to develop 550 MW of new wind plant. Following ten years of debate, during which time the group has become well versed in all aspects of the wind industry, the first draft of a plan has been published.

A local association of neighbours and environmentalists has become a key player in a plan to develop 550 MW of wind resources in the coastal Andalusian district of La Janda, Cadiz province. At the same time, a 400 MW plan for the neighbouring district of Tarifa -- which has been developed massively with wind -- has been found lacking in detail and temporarily shelved.

Despite harbouring some of Spain's largest wind resources, the La Janda area has no wind plant, largely due to opposition from the local neighbourhood platform, Plataforma Vecinal de La Janda. Over the last decade, La Janda has watched on-going developments in Tarifa, where Spain's first commercial wind plant were installed in the 1980s, with considerable suspicion. Today in Tarifa, 491 turbines ranging from 30 kW to 1.65 MW sprawl haphazardly through the hills, much of it consisting of outdated technology. This less than text-book example of modern day wind power convinced La Janda's eight town halls that they should hold out against development until a rational wind plan for the area was drawn up.

Following ten years of debate, during which time la Plataforma has become well versed in all aspects of the industry, the first draft of a plan has been published. "Given that we forged the plan on the basis of extensive dialogue locally, it is unlikely that there will be any major opposition," says Eduardo Cáliz of Cadiz's provincial governing body, which has even provided a bus service to a centre set up to inform the public of the plan's finer details.

In the draft strategy, more than half of La Janda's 1500 MW estimated potential has been discarded as eligible for development. The plan defines several exclusion zones related to environmental and visual impact, local business and farming activities and tourism. A minimum distance of 500 metres from any homes has been stipulated and the draft plan recommends that wind plant be approved in 50 MW blocks to ensure optimum viability.

More pressure

Despite a growing consensus locally, the plan has a long way to go before it is implemented. Furthermore, the influential Plataforma continues to apply pressure for safeguards, according to the group's Jose Luis Tirado. "It is absurd that such interdependent areas as Tarifa and La Janda should have two separate plans," he says. "Given the lack of an integrated regional wind plan in Andalusia, we are pressing to make sure that wind development has a positive effect on the local economy."

The group is demanding that municipal authorities participate in wind development, an aspect not included in the present draft. Tirado describes early developments in Tarifa as "a third world-like scenario," in which local resources are exploited by large corporations without ensuring local investment.

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