If anyone doubted the aphorism that in Spain tasks are left to the last day, the example of what has happened in recent weeks with the wind energy sector will scare off any doubters. The situation was as follows: there were thousands of uninstalled megawatts (MW) with the right to be connected to the electricity grid, but stuck in an administrative bureaucracy that had not sifted which were viable and which were not. The extension to preserve this access to the grid -initially set for March last year- expired on Wednesday, and the final result shows the pile-up that existed in the drawers of the autonomous communities and the Ministry of Ecological Transition. In Galicia alone, this exceptional window for the issuance of environmental impact statements (which were pending) has paved the way for the execution of projects with 2,912 MW of combined power, equivalent to 75% of the community's installed capacity to date. At full gallop, with the tongue out, this renewable onslaught in Galicia would entail a total investment of more than 2,400 million euros, as analyzed by this newspaper based on the drafting of all projects finally verified as "viable" and unlocked by the Department of Environment and the ministry that commands Teresa Ribera (for those of more than 50 MW of installed capacity).
It has not been at all a free bar: the Xunta knocked down 43 of the 120 files resolved, and from Madrid were issued, of a total of 11 files, two negative opinions (three others were archived). Among the last rejected polygons is the one promoted by Greenalia for the Ourense municipalities of Baltar, Os Blancos and Calvos de Randín, which foresaw the installation of five wind turbines with 6.6 MW of power each and an investment of just over 27 million euros. But it did not pass the scrutiny of Patrimonio Natural: "It is not possible to determine with total certainty that there will be no negative effects on natural values," the report states. On the other hand, there is the Serra da Piñeira park, which received the environmental impact statement at the last minute. Located in the municipalities of Baralla, Láncara and Becerreá, it will have six windmills with a rotor diameter of 170 meters and an installed power of 35 MW. The investment to build this polygon will be, for the developer Enel Green Power, about 33 million euros.
On average, the 77 projects that continue their way after the approval of the Xunta -the Ministry verified seven others-, will have an average capacity of about 30 megawatts. They are the parks of less than 50 MW, since those that exceed this power are the ones that had to be analyzed by the central Government. The cost of execution of these farms, also on average, will be around 27 million Euros each, amounts that correspond only to the installation of the wind turbines and the evacuation lines. However, the list of unblocked projects is heterogeneous, with wind farms of about 13 MW of power (Friol, of Greenalia) and others of the limit of 50 MW that could be evaluated by the Galician Executive (such as Treboada, in the municipalities of Ribas de Sil, Castro Caldelas, Chandrexa de Queixa, Pobra de Tribes and San Xoán de Río).
Nothing to do with the huge complexes designed to feed green energy to the Galician plants of Alcoa -or the tire plant of Sentury- and Showa Denko. The project, called Santuario and promoted by Enel, will deploy 40 wind turbines, with an installed capacity of 180 MW and an assimilated investment of around 150 million euros. In this regard, the first vice-president and Regional Minister of Economy and Industry, Francisco Conde, stressed that wind projects subject to PPA (Power Purchase Agreement, long-term energy supply), together with a competitive electricity price, are the solution that guarantees the future of the Alcoa San Cibrao plant and assured that the Xunta will continue working along these lines.
This final runaway race has not cleared, however, all the equis, because the parks must be operational and connected to the grid before July 2025 if they do not want to lose the connection, hence sources of the wind power employers have serious doubts that these 84 validated projects finally enter into service. Time is pressing, because the execution deadlines estimated by the promoters are around eleven months once all the administrative channels are cleared. If they are all completed, the wind farm will deploy up to 570 wind turbines in just over two years.
Archaeological sites, impact on tourism or saturation
The analysis of the projects presented shows a complex work by the technicians of the Xunta, which was reinforced with more than a hundred staff to analyze each procedure. Some of the parks invaded areas of special protection, such as archaeological sites or public service roads. Or they altered the environment to the point of jeopardizing the tourist potential of an area, "being able to distort or alter the environment of its location". Industrial estates have also been knocked down for being in areas with a "high level of park occupation", which could generate "a barrier effect on birdlife, incompatible with the needs of these populations". The neighborhood response, via allegations, has also been very active throughout the procedure.