Junta rejects every single proposal

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Wind power has still to get out of the starting blocks in the Spanish region of Extremadura two years after its wind law came into being. All 119 projects submitted in response to a request for proposals (RFP) issued by the regional government, or Junta, six months ago have been rejected. The projects, with a combined capacity of 3700 MW and presented by 22 companies, failed to meet the RFP's requirements, says the Junta. It has issued a new RFP with a December deadline.

Only 83 of the original proposals have been given the go-ahead to reapply. The others contain "serious faults" according to regional industry minister Manuel Amigo. Parts of some projects proposed were outside Extremadura's borders, he says, spreading not only into neighbouring regions but also into Portugal, with no applications for permits lodged with the respective authorities. Furthermore, over 20 proposals were for sites declared out of bounds -- mainly for environmental regions -- in the regional wind law passed in 2005. Others failed to include an environmental impact assessment (EIA). In all, Amigo confirms that 41 projects were discarded outright and may not reapply.

Extremadura's President, Juan Carlos Rodríguez Ibarra, is not amused. He says the entire process is indicative of a crude attempt by some applicants to speculate in land rights. "Many presented raffle tickets, not serious projects, to see if they'd end up winning something," he said, following the Junta's rejection of all the proposals. Behind the scenes and in the media, Ibarra is being accused of pandering to local fears that the tourism induustry will be hit by wind development. Tourism is one of the main sources of income for Extremadura, Spain's poorest region.

Ibarra denies the allegations, saying project assessment was in strict accordance with the rules. He admits the wind law is deliberately demanding: the government is aiming to see three direct jobs created for each installed megawatt, with investment in wind farms remaining local and natural beauty spots and habitats unimpaired. Ibarra points out that he publicly challenged anybody to prove to him that any of the rejected projects had met the Junta's requirements as set out in the 2005 regulation. Nobody has come forward, he says.

Easy solutions

Meantime, Amigo assures that 28 of the projects can adopt "easy solutions" to comply with the 2005 regulation. A further 47 needed to fill gaps in their EIA or complete details regarding proposed connection points and distribution lines. Eight other projects, while earmarking sites eligible for development, were borderline, requiring extensive modification.

While all the major companies operating in the Spanish wind market submitted proposals none is prepared to make a public statement on the current situation. That includes national utilities Unión Fenosa, Endesa and Iberdrola, together with Portuguese counterpart Energías de Portugal (EDP), as well as wind giants Gamesa and Acciona. "Things are far too delicate as they are. We can't risk saying the wrong thing," confided one. "It's not the first time regional administrations have found creases in our projects. All we can do is knuckle down and iron them out and presume the Junta is acting in good faith."

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