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Spanish environmentalists are up in arms over new plans to erect 661 wind turbines in the Tarifa area of southern Spain. Tarifa is already home to 30 MW of wind plant and US firm Kenetech is currently putting in another 30 MW.

Promoting the new project is Desarrollos E—licos, a Spanish owned subsidiary of the Abengoa conglomerate of Seville. The company owns several wind farms operating in Tarifa which it built as part of a now dissolved joint venture with Kenetech. According to the company's new plans, released by the regional environmental authority prior to environmental impact assessment, the company plans to build 11 wind farms with an installed capacity of 199 MW in and around the Tarifa area.

The managing director of Desarrollos E—licas, Tomas Andueza, says work on the wind farms would begin this year, with completion of those granted permits scheduled for 2000. The company intends to use its newly developed 300A prototype on which tests began in October.

Conservationists, already angered over the current wind stations, complain that the projected installations will add to the negative visual impact caused by the existing turbines and hinder the migration of thousands of birds which gather in the area before crossing to and from Africa. Several of the proposals are for sites within the boundaries of the Alcornocales Natural nature reserve. Conservationists views are backed by local politicians of the United Left (IU) communist coalition which in the past has come out as a strong supporter of wind power.

The area was very much in the news in early 1994 over the impact of wind turbines on griffon vultures, several dozen of which were killed in wind farms, according to ornithologists. The proposals by Desarrollos E—licos have reopened this old sore.

Observers believe, however, that the environmentalists could be overreacting to what is nothing more than a proposal on paper. Andueza says approval of the plans is still pending and it is unlikely that all will get off the drawing board. Also, there is some doubt whether Desarrollos E—licos has the capacity to build so many machines, despite Andueza's insistence that the prototype will be ready for mass production later this year. The company already has plans approved for the construction of six wind farms in Galicia in the northwest (Windpower Monthly, February 1995) where it plans to generate 138.9 MW using the 300A prototype.

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