Wind rush starts in southern Spain

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Tarifa officials have finally given the go-ahead for construction of 400 MW more of wind power in the southern Spanish region -- and local authorities say prospective wind plant developers are paying up front for the best parcels of land. Meantime, though, the regional planning authority has slapped a 300 MW ceiling on the whole area of which Tarifa is a part.

According to Tarifa mayor Jose Fuentes Pacheco, 200 MW has already been allotted to the Spanish firm Desarrollos Eolicos SA, a subsidiary of industrial giant Abengoa, while the remainder is to be divided among several national and international developers. "Over the coming months we can expect plenty of offers," says Fuentes Pacheco. "It is now a question of first come first served, such is the demand for land here. Any firm willing to pay the town hall tax of ESP 1000 per installed kilowatt per year is welcome to bid."

Among those vying for a piece of the Tarifa action is Micon of Denmark, with plans for an 18-20 MW project. Meantime an unknown organisation called "Wind Iberica" has been given the go-ahead "to put several dozen megawatt in the ground," says Fuentes Pacheco. "We are convinced wind power is about to take off in a big way here now," he adds.

Permission for the 400 MW expansion to the around 70 MW now in the ground at Tarifa was granted by Fuentes Pacheco despite a 300 MW ceiling imposed by the regional government's environmental agency, the AMA. The ceiling was made public in late May in the Plan Global de Ordenacion Eolico, or Global Plan for Wind Power Development, which covers the Campo de Gibraltar and La Janda, an area comprising several municipalities including Tarifa. Delayed for over a year, the study took in every possible variable, covering impact on the domestic and migratory birds that fly through the area on their way to and from Africa, archaeological sites, the local flora and other factors likely to suffer from the development of new wind sites.

"It is not legally binding," says Jose Luis Blanco, the regional minister for the environment, "but it has the initial approval of everyone involved one way or another in wind power here and therefore should and must be respected." According to the plan, all new wind projects must also comply with the region's tough environmental laws, including a law governing impact studies which came into being in 1995.

Tax per kilowatt installed

Although the 100 MW difference between the regional government's ceiling and Tarifa's wind revenue potential could initially hurt Fuentes Pacheco's plans for wind power in his area, he welcomes the announcement. "If I had not publicly come out with my plans for wind farms here we would still be waiting for the global wind power plan," he says. "We have customers willing to pay. We have got encouragement from the government. Now we have got to get this off the ground."

The mayor is driving a tough bargain for Tarifa land. Desarrollos Eolicos, he says, is committed to building a turbine factory in exchange for the 200 MW he has allotted the company. He is also to charge an ESP 1000-1500 per kilowatt per year tax on wind farms on municipal land and a slightly lower rate on private land in Tarifa's jurisdiction.

Not everybody is as euphoric as Fuentes Pacheco, though. Jacobs Energie GmbH, a small German organisation, pulled out of the running in May after announcing plans to put in 18-20 MW of wind power and establish a manufacturing facility in Tarifa. According to the firm's Juergen Wriedt, Jacobs had underestimated the cost of investing in Tarifa and could not meet the financial burden of the initial investment. "One of the reasons the sums did not add up was because of the amount of money that would have to be invested in increasing grid capacity, which is very weak. It was something that was initially overlooked." Wriedt also complains bitterly about Spanish red tape. "We would like to invest in Spain eventually. It just didn't work out this time," he says.

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