New watchdog claims negligence

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A new Spanish wind watchdog group is sounding alarm bells within the European Commission (EC), claiming that wind farms are going up in Castile and León within protected areas that form part of Europe's Red Natura 2000, established in the EU Habitat Directive. Further, the group has announced that the EC, "Worried and informed about what is going on, has chosen the region of Castile and León as a case study of the degree to which regional policy takes into account environmental issues."

The watchdog, Mesa Estatal para un Emplazamiento Racional de la Energía Eólica, the round table for rational wind power siting, consists of 21 associations -- most of them environmental -- and was formed in December. The group says it supports wind power but complains that it escapes the environmental controls on large industry. "We feel ashamed of a regional administration that has not been able to establish the necessary limitations to this industry," says the group, referring to Castile and León. Ten of the 21 associations that make up the watchdog group are based in Castile and León.

The watchdog also incorporates influential national groups such as Gepec of Catalonia, Navarra's Gurelur, Madrid's avian group, Seo/Birdlife, and members from Estremadura, Basque Country, La Rioja, Cantabria and Valencia. The group aims to inform the public about the economic aspects of wind energy and environmental impact in areas earmarked for development.

Already it has issued a formal complaint to Castile and León regarding approvals of wind plant in three zones of extreme sensitivity or special bird protection. It was also behind a campaign that brought mass media attention to two damaged wind plant in the region.

Manuel Bustos of the renewables producers association, APPA, says the watchdog is founded on a series of misconceptions, particularly the disregard of environmental considerations. Bustos points out that despite applications for around 70,000 MW, it is the regional environment departments which mainly keep the spread of wind farms under control. In 2000, less than 700 MW was put on-line, bringing the total installed capacity to 2200 MW.

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