At stake are millions of European Currency Units (ECU) from the European Commission's Thermie programme which supports energy demonstration and development projects.
According to sources at the Andalusian Environment Authority (AMA) in Seville, high-level talks between Brussels and the authorities in Spain are underway to show how the Tarifa wind farms can be expanded without further impact on the environment. In Brussels the environment directorate, DGXI, is wary about further development, while the energy directorate, DGXVII, is willing to support it given the right conditions.
"We have shown the Brussels committee partial results of a bird study carried out by ornithological organisations, a wind map for the sustainable development of the area and impact studies covering other environmental concerns," AMA spokesman, Juan Carlos Perucho says. "The initial reaction seemed quite positive," he continues, adding that the AMA was cautiously optimistic on eliciting a favourable response from the committee.
"What we can be sure about though is that no further development of wind power will be initiated at Tarifa unless approval from Brussels is forthcoming," he concludes.
The talks came as at least two domestic wind developers -- Desarrollos E—licos and Ecotècnia -- indicated their interest in expanding the 30 MW of installed wind capacity at Tarifa and adjacent locations. The American firm Kenetech is currently putting another 30 MW in the ground.
In Brussels, a spokesman for DGXI confirms the talks are underway, but warns that the documents presented were only partially completed studies. "Careful scrutiny of the final documents would be carried out before approval in any form was given," Javier Ruiz Tom‡s says. He adds that biased documents, whether in favour or against wind power, would be disregarded.
The controversy at Tarifa erupted after bird organisations claimed dozens of Griffon vultures had been killed after crashing into wind turbines, most of which are situated inside a national park and a Specially Protected Area (SPA). As a result, ornithologists, local environment organisations and pressure groups complained to Brussels which forced a re-examination of EU funding for wind farms in the area. The de facto moratorium caused millions of pesetas in losses, wind industry chiefs complained.
Conditions placed on future funding included a blanket study of Tarifa into how sustainable development of the area could be carried out. It is this study, apparently near completion, which the Spanish authorities hope will allow for wind development to be continued. According to DGXI's Ruiz, the whole issue of whether Tarifa should see any form of development is being carefully examined, including whether there should be wind farms there.
"Any development of this area is incompatible with its protected status as a Natural Park and SPA," he says. "You have got plans for a road, a power cable linking Morocco and Spain. And then you have more windmills. Why did the authorities declare it a protected zone in the first place?" He adds that until now Brussels has been very lenient with developments at Tarifa, even though some thought has been given to having some of the existing wind turbines uprooted. "We are now looking at Tarifa from the perspective of what is done is done, but we do not want to see any further environmental damage down there," he says.
The bid to get approval from Brussels comes a few months before experts on the Thermie programme convene to allot funding to those alternative energy projects deemed feasible for development. According to Enzo Millich, division head for the Thermie programme, ECU 108 million has been allotted this year to alternative energy projects, although he did not know what if any Spanish wind power projects had been proposed.