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Caught in the rain of renewable megaparks


The lands of hundreds of farmers will be expropriated to install part of the 3,000 projected solar and wind power plants

Surrounded by his 3,000 olive trees, José Sánchez picks up a bunch of olives from the net spread over the land on his farm in Caniles (Granada) and twists the gesture: “This is the sacrifice, the work and the money of my life, because this you have to add sweat and money.

Capital Energy called me to ask if I was interested in renting my land, I told them no, and three days later they expropriated me in the BOE.

Since then we are in a sinvivir ”.

At 64, this farmer needs sleeping pills since last March his 10 hectares of land, wild but fertile, were trapped in an expropriation planned by the Ministry for the Ecological Transition to install a megapark with 446 hectares that will generate 250 megawatts of solar energy. They offered him 1,400 euros per hectare per year, but the extra olive oil rents him five times more and he rejected the glove to maintain the generational change of his two children. However, if the Ministry does not heed his allegations after declaring the installation of public utility, a compulsory expropriation jury will set a fair price this winter to compensate him and 568,500 panels will bury his olive trees, some adults up to 27 years old.

The Ququima project of the firm Capital Energy, located in the spectacular Granada Geopark, is one of the more than 3,000 plants that could curdle in the Spanish landscape to carry out the energy transition and Sánchez one of the hundreds of farmers affected by this avalanche of projected solar and wind farms. Once the regulatory landscape was clarified and with an investment of 91,765 million until 2030 according to the Government's estimate, investment funds, large power companies and other companies began to propose renewable energy projects to the Ministry and the autonomous communities in view of the expected high profitability, which is around 10%. Neither the Ministry nor the autonomous communities clarify how many parks will come out ahead of the thousands projected nor how many farms have already been expropriated by the 18 official gazettes.

The investment fever for megaparks is such that the 147 gigabytes of renewable power with permission to access the Electric Network today almost triples the Government's forecast for 2030, which stands at 57 gigawatts [each giga is equivalent to 1,000 megawatts]. Only the Ministry —which authorizes parks with more than 50 megawatts—, Andalusia, Aragón, Castilla-La Mancha, Castilla y León, Extremadura and Galicia process 2,992 plants totaling 125 gigawatts (94 from solar and 31 from wind), according to the data collected by this newspaper. The plants that have access permits today would occupy an area of ​​between 8,200 and 17,045 square kilometers, between 1.6% and 3.3% of the national territory, according to calculations by the Ministry, which vary due to the progressive efficiency expected.

This occupation of the territory can leave victims, such as expropriated farmers, but also affect areas of ecological value, and numerous scientific and conservation voices call for better planning of megaparks to put a stop to the unleashed administrative race, which has caused a great Traffic jam, both in the Ministry and in the 17 autonomies: the Government extended last Tuesday until the end of 2022 the deadline for the mountains of projects after 2017 to have the favorable environmental impact statement, or else they will lose part of the guarantees required of the promoter companies.

“The interest is enormous, so great that it is hard to believe.

We live the decades of almost free money and everything that brings an acceptable return is easy and on top of that you have green energy and there is regulatory support, everything is in favor.

The only thing that remains is that excess investment generates excess competition ”, assesses Bosco Ojeda, director of analysis at the Swiss investment bank UBS.

"Of course, the fund that invests in renewables does not want environmental impact or environmental risk against it, because it has an intention and a social mandate and the auditors reflect it in the Corporate Social Responsibility report," he says.

Juan Fernando Gallardo, in his farm of ecological almond trees in Caniles (Granada), which will disappear if the expropriation of the Ministry for Ecological Transition succeeds PACO PUENTES (EL PAÍS)

For their panels and mills, large companies prefer cheap soils occupied by rainfed crops in cereal fields, but which are the habitat of steppe birds, some in danger of extinction such as the great bustard and others vulnerable such as the Montagu's harrier. The environmental approval for each park is in the hands of the officials, who decide with a powerful legislative battery of bird protection in the rear-view mirror and that sometimes they are the favorite target of the resources of the ecologists and the bosses. "The most valuable biodiversity is associated with rainfed crops, extensive livestock and rural and ecological tourism, endangered by these megaparks. In addition, we missed the opportunity to distribute the plants in degraded public places in our towns, with an immense surface ”, censors Luis Bolonio,biologist and spokesperson for the Energy and Territory Alliance (Aliente), which brings together 180 environmental and social organizations.

Given the avalanche of planned parks, the Galician Xunta declared a moratorium and will not admit more wind projects until July 2023 after receiving requests for 7,200 megawatts that collapsed its response capacity. Manchego's general director of Energy Transition, Manuel Guirao, sums up: "We are on the crest of the wave and two more parks may enter tomorrow, but many projects will not succeed." Castilla La Mancha accumulates 396 parks with nine gigawatts and to meet the deadlines, its regional government has hired 108 new processors and thus avoid possible lawsuits for lost profits from employers in contentious-administrative matters. "The sector tells us that there may be some massive prosecution, there is concern and nervousness, although we try to be strict with the environmental impact," he says.

The third vice president of the Government and Minister of Ecological Transition, Teresa Ribera, warned two weeks ago about the excessive fever of projects: "150 gigs is an amount far above what is necessary or viable, for this we wanted to have visibility about how much business sense made and how much could be due to a speculative operation (…) it is necessary to maintain the guarantees for project developers, but without diminishing the guarantees of the people who live in the territory and who view with concern a theoretical deployment of projects that practically occupy their term municipal to the whole and that are hardly viable ”. Among the 3,000 parks, of which a large part will be discarded, there are some speculators that after reaching the connection point to the network,They sell it to the highest bidder without even having the land or environmental paperwork approved.

Regarding the possible administrative delay, the employer Appa (Association of Renewable Energy Companies) demands solutions from the Government and the autonomies to unblock the funnel: "To decarbonize the economy we need large and small plants, and if the delay is due to the Administration you cannot penalize the promoter ”, complains Lucía Dollera, director of Appa's projects area.

Banner in the Caniles Town Hall against the projected solar megapark in the town.


In Castilla-La Mancha, projects such as Trillo (Guadalajara) stand out, advertised as the largest photovoltaic complex in Europe with 219 million investment and where the Solaria company accumulates 13 plants together of 49.9 megawatts each, thus avoiding the evaluation of the Ministry. "The environmental impact is evaluated by three islands of plants, we do not fragment, even if they are divided", argues Guirao. This so-called “fragmentation” is another workhorse denounced by conservationists and that can interrupt in the courts the construction of plants already approved by the Administration: given that projects above 50 megawatts are evaluated by the Ministry of Ecological Transition, numerous companies have chosen to divide their megaparks into projects of 49,9 megawatts for the technicians of the autonomous governments to evaluate their environmental impact. Solaria has suffered stock market swings over the last year due to the uncertainty that its plants have generated when running into environmental pitfalls and failing to meet expectations. "They are very ambitious and want to reach six gigabytes in 2025 and the share price was penalized for the delays suffered", detail sources in the sector. The company has declined to comment on the matter.detail sources in the sector. The company has declined to comment on the matter.detail sources in the sector. The company has declined to comment on the matter.

“The fragmentation of projects is a mockery of administrative powers and an unequivocal attempt to circumvent the Ministry, which would be more demanding to process it. The Ministry is not zealously defending its competence framework against large electricity companies and the climatic emergency cannot cover tricks, ”censures lawyer Jaime Doreste, who will shortly file contentious-administrative appeals against a solar park in Tabernas (Almería) and various in Zaragoza. “It generates legal insecurity, since vices in the environmental assessment and material and territorial incompetence are causes of nullity of law. The investments remain at the risk of an eventual judicial ruling annulling the project, which would have disastrous effects for the promoter ”, he advances. The Forestalia company has divided its Campo Romanos project over 1.142 hectares in Zaragoza in eight contiguous plants of 40 and 49.99 megawatts, but it is just one example of a business tactic that affects all regions.

Why do companies prefer to avoid the Ministry and be evaluated by the autonomous governments? "The regional processing is neither better nor worse, but until today it has been more agile," says Carlos Reyero, CEO of Forestalia. However, other factors and pressures also weigh: The Andalusian Board published on February 3 its viewer to map the critical areas of ecological affection that wind turbines and solar panels should not occupy. But the regional renewable energy association, Caner, struck the table and a week later demanded that the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fisheries and Sustainable Development withdraw its official cartography. The Ministry folded and removed the viewer from its website after a "long and sometimes tense dialogue" during the meeting on February 10,according to the email sent a day later by Caner to his associates to explain his success. After pressure from the employers, the Board commissioned an independent expert for a new viewer, who delivered it two weeks ago, but it will not be made public and this will avoid knowing the critical environmental areas, as confirmed by a spokesman for the Ministry.

Andalusia is by far the community with the most plant projects on the table (737), with an expected power of almost 20 gigawatts.

In this region, the Ququima project is in the air pending whether or not the Ministry accepts the allegations of hundreds of individuals and institutions such as the Caniles City Council.

Its mayor, Pilar Vázquez, criticizes the size of the solar park in the Geopark, which will host five other wind energy projects: “In Caniles there is no room for a project of that magnitude.

All the technicians, regardless of the political sign of their Administration, tell us that what is recommended and sustainable is a maximum of 100 hectares and this has 700. We are against this project, but not renewable ”.

Pilar Vázquez, Mayor of Caniles (Granada). PACO PUENTES 30799205C (EL PAÍS)

Salvador Caro, director of Capital Energy in Andalusia, defends that they have reduced the extension of the megapark from 700 hectares to 446 to try to make irrigated agriculture compatible with the half million planned panels. "92% of the 114 farmers are satisfied and we continue negotiating with that 8% to close an agreement," he claims. The company claims that it pays the landowners 10 times the rent they now obtain from their crops, but the farmers' accounts say the opposite: that those 1,400 euros per hectare are several times less than the profit obtained with almond, olive or ecological cereal.

Unlike Sánchez, other farmers such as José Blanque did sign a contract with the company, but they feel cheated by having signed the transfer of 20 hectares and finally seeing how the BOE expropriated the 40 he owns. “My great-grandfather bought the farm a century ago and my father taught me that you eat the land. What future awaits my two children if they evict us from our lands? ”He protests. The farmers, who have demonstrated with tractors, are outraged by the possible expropriation, but also because the Subdelegation of the Government has advanced to them that it will probably be executed without responding to their allegations due to the lack of officials.The lawyer Manuel Aguilar censures that the contracts contain abuses of rights such as having offered them a land lease when in fact they signed a surface right that can be transferred, and that includes extensions at the will of the promoter instead of coming from both parties. "The people of the rural world are more humble, they protest less and it is a very good breeding ground for those who want to abuse," he criticizes.

The image of Caniles, pregnant with cave houses and small hills of white lands with large mountains on the horizon that close the Geopark of the Granada highlands, is about to change.

The technicians of the Ministry and the Andalusian Board will decide this winter if the metamorphosis will be colossal or only spotty.

Source: elparis

All business articles on 2022-01-07

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