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Wind Wire: Surprise support

A Spanish avian group has shown unexpected sympathy for two wind farms in which endangered birds have died.

A court ordered neighbouring wind farms Arrielo and Folch I, in the Castellon province of Valencia, to shut down their 40, 1.5 MW turbines after the death of 263 vultures. Of those, 203 were of the protected griffon species. The plant owner, Renomar, insists it carried out a full environmental assessment study and followed all suggestions by regional environmental authorities to minimise impact on the natural habitat. The company has appealed both the court order and a charge of harmful negligence. Avian group SEO/Birdlife has backed Renomar, agreeing with its claim that the problem lies mainly in bad management of vulture feeding grounds. Years ago, to reduce risk of mad cow disease, the central government banned the common farming practice of leaving dead livestock in fields to be cleaned up by vultures. That left vultures dependent on regionally controlled feeding grounds. But several such grounds in the neighbouring province of Teruel were closed last year, forcing vultures to find a new feeding site in the landfill dump of Vilafranca - very close to the Arrielo and Folch wind stations.

"Until that dump is closed or better controlled, the vultures will flock in droves through the turbine paths and they must be protected at all cost," says SEO/Birdlife's Mario Gimenez. "But the two-year environmental impact assessment for the wind projects could do nothing to predict the closures in Teruel." Renomar is helping build safer feeding grounds. Meanwhile, the turbines remain at a standstill as the company awaits the hearing of its appeal. Previously, only a handful of turbines have been shut down in any single case in Spain.

The regional government of Valencia has awarded a 298 MW exclusive development concession to Sistemas Energeticos de Levante, a wind development consortium 60% owned by Iberdrola Renovables. Savings bank Bancaja owns the remaining 40%. The concession partly resolves last summer's public call for proposals to extend by 340 MW Valencia's 2300 MW of existing wind concessions, as doled out to five contenders in 2003 (Windpower Monthly, August 2008). In addition, the Med Wind Energy consortium, led by the region's leading wind development firm, Renomar, was awarded a 42 MW concession. All the extension capacity is for the Castellon province, where Renomar, the only company yet to put up turbines following the awarding of concessions in 2003, has already installed nearly 700 MW. The regional government hopes to complete the full 2300 MW of the first concession by 2011. Success depends on whether the projects fall within a 21 GW national cap on wind power to 2010 (page 40).

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