|Ignoring the environment: Regional government planning for wind power in Spain
In December 2006, the Extremadura regional government in Spain announced that 116 requests had been received to install wind farms in the region. Sixteen had at least part of their area within a site protected under the EU Birds Directive (SPA), and 11 within a site protected under the EU Habitats Directive (SCI/SAC). Furthermore, 82 projects were sited within 10 km of Natura 2000 sites declared for birds or bats (it is in principle not allowed to install wind farms in Natura 2000 sites although some areas could obtain permissions nevertheless), and thus potentially could adversely affect the value of these sites and the integrity and coherence of the Natura 2000 network. However, not one of these projects was evaluated in terms of its impact on Natura 2000 sites, and alternatives with no impact on the network were not considered. Projects were proposed and received their permissions in SPAs important for Iberian imperial eagle or Black vulture. Some projects were firstly rejected by the regional government but were finally approved because of the decisions of Spanish Courts.
The EU strategic environmental assessment (SEA) Directive (2001/42/EC) requires authorities developing plans in a range of sectors, including energy, to take environmental considerations into account through a process of assessment and consultation. In Spain only two wind energy plans have been subjected to this type of evaluation. The failure to carry out SEA of wind energy plans elsewhere has in many cases meant that they have been prepared simply in terms of the distribution of the wind resource, without taking into account any environmental concerns. This is the case, for example, in the autonomous community of Valencia.
Far from accelerating wind farm development, failure to carry out SEA can result in lengthy delay, as has been the case in Catalonia, where the Supreme Court of Justice has halted the planning of wind farms in priority zones for wind energy development because of the lack of environmental evaluation. A similar situation exists in Cantabria, where complaints have been registered in the courts because the wind energy plan was approved without being subject to SEA.
| Further reading:
Lekuona, J.M. & Ursúa, C. (2007) Avian mortality in wind power plants of Navarra (Northern Spain). In de Lucas, M., Janss, G.F.E. & Ferrer, M. (eds.) Birds and Wind Farms Risk Assessment and Mitigation pp.177–92. Quercus, Madrid, Spain.
Octavio Infante oinfante(at)seo.org