Catalonia court revokes permits -- Wind farm owner appeals

The highest regional court in Catalonia has annulled permits for two operational wind farms in the Vilobí and Tallat mountains of Lerida province owned by Acciona Energía. The wind farms have a combined capacity of 100 MW and represent nearly a third of the region's 340 MW of wind power. The permits, granted by the regional government, were revoked after an appeal by conservation group Ecologistes de Catalunya, which argued that the two neighbouring wind farms should have been processed as one large project.

The group, which opposes wind farm development in Catalonia, believes the ruling could set a precedent for further permit annulments. The regional government, however, has lodged an appeal against the ruling with Spain's Supreme Court of Justice. Until it passes judgement, which could take up to two years, the 66 Acciona Windpower 1.5 MW turbines can continue producing energy.

On paper, no wind farm in Spain is larger than 50 MW because only single plant up to that size are eligible for the national wind power production incentive payment. The Supreme Court must decide whether Acciona, Spain's second biggest wind operator, failed in its paperwork to abide by the rules.

"It's unthinkable that the company would make such an omission," says Ramón Carbonell of regional wind association EolicCat. Carbonell says any damage can be righted by compensation or other means without having to dismantle the turbines, as Ecologistes de Catalunya says will happen. He is unconcerned about the ruling setting a legal precedent, pointing out that large concentrations of wind turbines in Catalonia's rugged landscape are few and far between.

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