Environmental safeguards

A new environmental impact assessment (EIA) law, which came into force in Spain last month, will affect nearly all new wind development applications in the country, though the hundreds of megawatt at the advanced "administrative authorisation" stage will not be hit, according to the Spanish renewables producers association, APPA.

The law, the enforcement in Spain of the EU 1997 EIA directive, demands environmental studies for wind projects of 20 or more units, of sites within two kilometres of other plant and developments of ten or more turbines in "specially sensitive" areas.

Although most Spanish regions already demand extensive EIA studies, the law ensures an environmental safety net for less protected areas. This is significant for Catalonia, where a new wind plan defines three levels of environmental sensitivity. The law will ensure that developments in low sensitivity areas meet with EIA requirements, to the relief of environmentalists.

The lack of a retroactive clause in the law exempts the applications already at the advanced stage -- particularly significant in Catalonia, where most of the 30 plans in the pipeline are earmarked for low-sensitivity areas in Tarragona. According to APPA's Manuel de Delas, applications totalling 10,208 MW have been registered nationally, of which 2077 MW are up and running or authorised. Whether the remaining 8131 MW can be considered at an "advanced" procedural stage will be up to the courts to decide, De Delas says.