Developer fights permit refusal

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Castile and León's largest wind plant developer, Corporación Eólica SA (CESA), is indignant about the negative resolutions issued by Burgos' provincial environment department to an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) completed by the wind company for three proposed wind projects. On the basis of the resolutions, CESA's application to build the plant, totalling 84 MW, has been rejected. The company has appealed the decision, which CESA's Pedro Párbole describes as "subjective and flimsy."

If the appeal fails, CESA will not be able to use most of the capacity of a 30 kilometre, EUR 90.2 million interconnection line, built with these projects in mind. The line already connects a total of 63 MW from four existing operational plant belonging to CESA in the same area. Failure will also mean the end of one of the first orders for Gamesa Eólica's MD 1.5 MW turbine model. Since its split with Vestas, Gamesa has clinched a technology transfer deal with Germany's REpower for sale of the machine in Spain. Párbole also estimates that land owners, mainly municipal authorities, will lose out on EUR 120,000 a year in levies and that EUR 300,000 a year in business tax will also go down the drain, together with the creation of 16 jobs.

Meanwhile, La Mesa Eólica, a regional wind watchdog group, is hoping CESA's appeal will fail. For the Mesa's Carlos Palma, a final rejection "could provide a clearer message to other prospective developers that environmentally sensitive areas are no longer easy prey." Many of the Mesa's officially lodged complaints regarding the three plant were echoed in the environmental department's response to the EIA. Not only are the projects slated for areas of "extreme" environmental sensitivity (main story), the sites are classified as special bird protection areas. What's more, CESA's EIA did not take into account the existence of vulture colonies. The Burgos resolutions also believe the wind stations would have a "critical impact on the landscape" and that together with CESA's existing turbines in the area they would create "a tunnel effect," or "a forest" of turbines.

"What is this forest of turbines?" asks Párbole, saying the term has no place in a technical report. He also adds that the areas have only been proposed for bird protection status since CESA's application, a status they have not yet achieved. Párbole believes the nature of CESA's projects should have exposed them to processing at regional rather than provincial level. This would have taken into account their broader contribution as part of a strategic wind development plan for Castile and León.

Párbole says the resolutions ignore CESA's attempts to reduce impact by swapping the 150, 660 kW machines originally planned for 60, 1.5 MW machines. He regrets there was no recognition of the company's environmental follow-up surveys in its four existing plant in Las Merindades, which reported a sizeable increase in the number of vultures in the area.

Meantime, the Mesa has officially charged CESA before the regional environment department of "blatant covering up and manipulation of data" regarding the bird protection status of the area. The results of both the Mesa's charges and CESA's appeal are currently the object of close scrutiny by the region's many other hopeful wind developers looking for indications of future trends.

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