Region struggles to keep things moving -- Castile and Leòn target threatened

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Wind project developers in Castile and León are starting to question the future of the Spanish region's large scale wind power plans and are threatening to retract contracts worth ESP 4 billion (EUR 24 million) if the pace of approvals does not pick up. Confusion over approval authority, complicated by local environmentalist pressure and severe lack of grid improvements, has churned the issue into a war of words.

Castile and León's wind target is 3000 MW, but just 16 MW has come on-line since the Plan Eólico, the wind plan was approved in June. A further 85 MW is being built and three new plant totalling 63 MW await construction licenses. But a further seven plant totalling 72 MW have been awaiting licenses since May. Current installed capacity is 213 MW.

According to Cruz Martin of the regional energy agency of Castile and León, Ente Regional de la Energia (EREN), "Wind development has been making good progress." Not so, says the regional developers association, Asociación de Productores Eólicos de Castilla y León (APECYL). Its members are threatening to retract 25 contracts with the regional industry department which guarantee the manufacture of wind plant components within the region together with the creation of 760 jobs.

"The problem came about when, in certain provinces, the environmental clauses were altered, greatly restricting the degree of development previously envisaged," APECYL claims. The provincial departments had reportedly given the go-ahead to the Plan Eólico, before they had defined the "extreme sensitivity" areas as defined within the EU Habitat Directive, where wind development would be restricted and complicated. The sheer speed of events in the region meant that some things got done in the wrong order, according to Alejandro del Amo of the regional environment department.

"In the beginning, some environmentally sensitive areas were sacrificed, given the relatively reduced scale of wind development originally perceived," he adds. Furthermore, although wind project applications were put on hold for seven months during preparation of the Plan Eólico, those already granted permission were allowed to go up. This apparent flouting of the law, combined with news of the magnitude of Castile and León's installed capacity objective of 3000 MW, gave rise to growing opposition, explains Del Amo.

APECYL, fearing that the criteria for granting planning approval have shifted, is now calling for a meeting with the regional departments of industry and environment. As EREN's Cruz Martín points out, the Plan Eólico is a co-ordination and consultative tool, the sum of nine provincial plans, not a binding document. Indeed, environmentalists are calling for a public debate on the plan and that all development be suspended until then.

Lack of transmission

Even if the 3000 MW target holds, grid limitations remain a serious barrier, says Luís Martín of national grid owner Red Eléctrica Española. It is preparing to recommend a lower target. Individual APECYL members confirm the problem. Concha Cánovas del Castillo of developer Ecyr suggests that Castile and León needs a grid connection plan on the lines of neighbouring Aragón (Windpower Monthly, November 2000). "We have put a lot of time and money into wind measurements and developments in the region but things seem to have come to a halt for Ecyr at 48.1 MW," says Cánovas.

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