Spain

Spain

Mayor stops wind plant construction -- David trips up Goliath

The mayor of the small Spanish sea-side town of Barbate has ordered a halt to advanced construction work on what would have been the first wind plant to go up in the district of La Janda. The developer, Desarrollos Eólicos (DESA), had already put up eight towers and laid all 26 foundations. DESA is the wind development arm of electricity giant and wind turbine maker Abengoa, and locals have taken great pride in the David and Goliath dimensions of the debacle. The mayor cited technical irregularities in order to halt building. Meanwhile, a second draft development plan led by local authorities, environmentalists and other groups is underway.

The mayor of the small Andalusian sea-side town of Barbate has ordered a halt to advanced construction work on what would have been the first wind plant to go up in the district of La Janda on the coastline of the Gibraltar straits in Cadiz province. The developer, Desarrollos Eólicos (DESA), had already put up eight towers and laid all 26 foundations at the Buenavista wind plant. DESA is the wind development arm of electricity giant and wind turbine maker Abengoa, and locals have taken great pride in the David and Goliath dimensions of the debacle.

The wind plant is being built in an area which has been earmarked as a development exclusion zone of outstanding natural beauty in a draft wind plan approved in November last year (Windpower Monthly, November 2000). A second draft, which estimates a viable installed plant capacity of 550 MW in La Janda, is being prepared by local authorities, environmentalists, a local neighbourhood platform and other groups. The eight town halls of La Janda have agreed not to issue any development licenses until the plan is finalised.

"It is inconceivable that a company can ride roughshod like this over such hard earned consensus for responsible development, which is more than two years in the making," says Luis Silva of Cadiz's provincial governing body, the prime mover behind the initiative. He adds that the plan is receiving, "The broad consensus of private and public entities alike."

The draft document, as such, has no legal weight. Thus, the mayor of Barbate, Juan Manuel de Jesus, resorted to a series of technical irregularities in order to halt building work on the plant, which was licensed by his predecessor in 1997 before the La Janda wind plan was underway.

"The main technical hitch lies in the fact that DESA had not given the legally required 15 day notice prior to the commencement of building work, nor did it present a building execution plan, which it is also duty bound to do," explains Silva.

Local suspicions

Other irregularities have further stoked local suspicions. DESA has laid foundations for more turbines than had been approved and in areas outside those licensed. Furthermore, an unauthorised access road had been built, according to Jose Luis Tirado of the Plataforma Vecinal de La Janda, the local neighbourhood group. Tirado welcomes De Jesus's action. "La Janda will resist the onslaught of irresponsible developers that have turned neighbouring Tarifa into a sprawling and uncontrolled mess of turbines without any positive repercussions for local development," Tirado says. Abengoa was also the company behind the early wind development in Tarifa involving hundreds of locally made US Windpower 100 kW turbines after they were no longer made in America.

Silva praises Jesus for being "courageous." He affirms that DESA has appealed against the decision and has promised to correct any irregularity if and when building work is allowed to start again. Meanwhile, Silva is adamant that every step will be taken to ensure that no other developer acts outside the bounds of the La Janda plan, which he hopes will be completed and approved by summer. DESA declines to comment.

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