Andalucia structure plan in trouble -- Locals try to keep lid on 600 MW

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A second draft wind development plan for Spain's La Janda area, on Andalucia's Gibraltar Straits, looks set for rubberstamping by early spring. But even though it caps development at 600 MW, the plan might not be enough to convince reluctant town halls to start granting development permits. A disgruntled and powerful local neighbourhood group -- Plataforma Vecinal de La Janda -- says it will maintain the pressure that has kept a lid on nearly all development for almost a decade in one of the windiest areas of Spain.

The platform's main bone of contention is the minimum distance of 500 metres between inhabited urban areas and wind turbines. The protest group's Jose Luis Tirado says the eight small towns of La Janda's coastline are built on hills, giving extensive visibility all round. "A wind plant at 500 metres would be barbaric visually," he says. Fellow group member Jose Luis Larramendi adds that he is also concerned for the effect on isolated rural dwellings, many of which are being turned into hotels to serve the area's fast growing tourism industry. The group is advocating a six kilometre minimum distance before the wind plan is approved by La Janda's municipal council, diputación.

Meantime, La Janda's wind developers, with projects for more than 2000 MW lined up, are complaining that the plan contains "excessively restrictive" environmental safeguards -- requiring a 50 dB maximum noise limit at 500 metres, among other things. A lobby of 13 developers known as La Mesa Eólica de La Janda has called it "little more than a map of restrictions in which only conservationist criteria have been taken into account."

One of the main complaints is that developers must present projects in blocks of 50 MW -- a requirement aimed at reducing the cost of grid improvements to accommodate new plant. According to Maria Ángeles Serrano, a consultant representing the Mesa, this could hold a project back by at least a year as one developer has to wait for another to catch up with lengthy environmental impact studies.

Not positive

Two developments have slipped through the net, but so far they have not been a positive experience for the local community. The first, the Buena Vista wind plant in Barbate, came on-line last year. Despite local action to stop construction (Windpower Monthly, March 2001), developer Desarrollos Eólicos SA (DESA) -- not a member of the Mesa -- managed to get it up before selling its whole wind business to Dutch utility Nuon. But with two of the 300 kW Abengoa turbines within 80 and 120 metres of a small rural hotel, problems have arisen. "People used to call this paradise but now it's just a mess," says hotel owner Peter Mrotzek. He claims to have measured 90 dB inside the hotel and says the "disco lighting effect" of the rotors is traumatising his ten Andalucian horses, the mainstay of his business.

Meanwhile, the town hall of Vejer has approved the Pedregosa wind plant from utility affiliate Endesa Cogeneración y Renovables (Ecyr), a Mesa member -- before the wind plan for La Janda is in force. The platform is not happy, fearing the early approval is a sign of developers' determination to go ahead regardless of planning restrictions. The approval has already provoked 30 complaints from locals, according to Tirado.

"Apart from politicians, we don't know of anybody who is in favour of letting wind development go ahead without more stringent planning," says Larramendi. He adds that landowners, once attracted by the levies they could charge for harbouring wind turbines, are now fearful that wind development could affect tourism.

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