Regional long term plans at last -- Interdepartmental co-operation

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A renewed surge of wind energy growth is expected in the autonomous Spanish regions of Castille and León and Catalonia following the approval of new official development plans, the result of co-operation between the industrial and environmental departments in each region. While the two regions tackle future development differently, the plans show significant teamwork in the regional governments and end a long-standing interdepartmental impasse which has otherwise stopped wind development in its tracks.

Castille and León's complex, long term regulation strategy, Plan Eólico, foresees an installed capacity of 2980 MW by 2010, a growth from 142 MW today. The plan focuses strongly on environmental issues as well as economic growth (Windpower Monthly, October 1999). It now awaits the final stamp of approval from the Junta, or regional government, according to Cruz Martín of Ente Regional de la Energía (EREN), the regional energy agency.

An estimated 6000 MW of wind development applications from every level of player and experience waits to be processed at EREN. In June 1999, joining what was to be a trend in Spain, the Junta called for a moratorium on all new wind project licenses while it took stock of the wind rush created by prospective developers moving into the area to stake out a site. Fears for the economic consequences of such rampant speculation in site purchases -- as well as concerns for the environment -- lay behind the moratorium.

The Plan Eólico considers the 20,000 square kilometres -- about 20% of the region -- that have been upgraded to "extreme sensitivity" in accordance with the EU's Habitat Directive, explains Alejandro del Amo of the regional environmental department. Wind development in this area -- which mainly lies within the provinces of Burgos and Soria -- will undergo strict environmental impact studies and must document that "highly profitable" prevailing winds (specified at 8 m/s) are available.

"It will be very difficult for a project to pass through the environmental impact filter in such areas," del Amo adds. "Developers are mostly targeting less sensitive areas." Using the best technology, however, he claims wind developments in Soria alone could fulfil the plan's entire installed capacity objectives.

Similarly, Raimundo Torío of the regional industry department is confident that the Plan Eólico will ensure environmentally sensitive development while guaranteeing considerable economic growth in the region. The plan foresees the creation of over 10,000 jobs -- 485 of which will be in plant operation and maintenance -- and estimates the overall investment in wind developments will be ESP 506.3 billion (i3.05 billion).

Mapping the future

Catalonia's wind development plan is in the form of a map, which was planned for publication last month. The map will define areas eligible for development and is expected to dispel the long standing impasse between the industrial and environmental departments. It is also hoped the map, together with increasing public information campaigns from promoters of wind power (Windpower Monthly, April 2000), will help appease strident opposition from environmentalists, especially in Tarragona (Windpower Monthly, January 2000).

Catalonia, which has 55 MW of wind plant installed, has become synonymous with delays throughout the Spanish wind industry (Windpower Monthly, April 2000), with thousands of megawatt pending in applications. The regional government, however, is likely to retain its "minimal intervention," approach to wind development, limiting itself to studying site applications individually within the criteria of its development map.

Although there are no overall regional investment or job creation impositions placed on developers, Catalonian authorities collaborate closely on assessing the viability of local development applications before granting municipal licenses. Detailed wind monitoring will be required of developers to filter out non-viable projects at an early stage, thus easing the pressure on the licensing process.

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