Point finger at government’s “sole criterion” being hours of sunlight
Environmental group Probaal is upping the ante in its fight to save an eastern Algarve natural paradise from being coated in almost 176,000 solar panels.
In a statement sent to newspaper offices today, it explains “the error starts right at the beginning” with the government’s decision to hold solar auctions “based on the sole criterion of the amount of hours of sun exposure”.
This sees production companies flocking to the south – namely the Algarve and Alentejo, and in this current case, to the middle of national ecological reserve (REN) “one of the richest areas in the Algarve in terms of biodiversity and the maximum infiltration zone of the Peral-Moncarapacho aquifer”.
Iberdrola Renewables SA. is going ahead with an environmental impact study to set up in an area equivalent to 160 football stadiums in this location, which Probaal believes will have catastrophic consequences, not least because the government completely ignored the “water criterion”.
“We need energy, but we need water even more”, says the statement. “And all the energy in the world won’t give us the water we need.
“In the specific case of this project – the Estoi Photovoltaic Power Station – now undergoing public consultation (giving people 42 days to evaluate more than 800 pages and an endless list of maps), an Environmental Impact Study (EIA), prodigious in concealments and strange confessions has been launched.
“The first confession concerns the land in question, which was bought in 1999 by a mining company (Tecnovia, S.A.), which has now passed it on to Iberdrola.
“Has Tecnovia, S.A. forgotten to tell Iberdrola that the population has united twice in two decades to fight (and won) for the preservation of Heritage and natural values of that territory?
“Iberdrola has also taken the unusual step of buying many hectares of land along the proposed site, making the Estoi Power Station one of the few where the developer is also the owner, since land (for solar panels) is usually leased; not bought. Can Iberdrola be so sure of buying and leasing 154 hectares?
“The second strange confession is that the network of approximately 175,000 solar panels winds around several small streams and covers their headwaters. Iberdrola goes on to admit that it will be need to dig up, remove soil and eradicate undergrowth.
In short, the company has shown it will be destroying “everything that favours rainfall and allows water that flows into the valley to infiltrate the Peral-Moncarapacho aquifer, which also partially feeds the Luz de Tavira aquifer”.
Probaal also accuses the Spanish energy giant of “ignoring or downplaying the fact that these panels need to be cleaned. Have they never seen the effect of desert dust in the Algarve?”
Authorities want everyone to ‘save water’, says the group. “Let’s save the land as well” – so the precious cycle of water is maintained along with “all the biodiversity, including the various protected species that can (still) be found there”.
For people who haven’t yet found Probaal’s website, its stunning video clips and photographs, here is a link that will show how to help this campaign by taking part in the public consultation process: https://www.probaal.org/en/colibri-wp/
There is also guidance on how to prepare a submission (in three different languages) https://www.probaal.org/en/public-consultation/
The public participation process ends on June 20.