Algarve ‘paradise’ threatened by wind farm

news: Algarve ‘paradise’ threatened by wind farm

PARTS OF Portugal can be mistaken for paradise and Pincho, a hamlet deep in the valleys to the north of Lagos, is such an Eden. However, this peaceful, serene and uncluttered Algarve countryside is soon to change if proposed plans for a wind farm come to fruition.

Enernova, a division of Electricidade de Portugal (edp) and installers of Hitachi wind turbines, have chosen Pincho to be the next site for nine, 200-foot high machines.

Due to the fires of 2003 and 2004, Pincho’s hinterland is desolate and agriculture destroyed, small landowners have suffered financial hardships and struggled to get themselves back on track. These Portuguese farmers, some illiterate, have, apparently, been approached by Enernova representatives and signed life-changing contracts.

According to a small group of expatriates living in the area, Enernova’s sales technique is simple: with contract in one hand and 500 euros in cash in the other, it is a matter of ‘sign this and we will give you this’.

Before signing the contract, farmers were told that a test tower would be built and monitored for two years, and turbines would be constructed after a further three years while permission is obtained, when farmers would finally receive a further 2,500 euros per annum per machine.

But, for the expatriates who have spent their hard-earned cash and put in years of back-breaking work to create paradise, the implications are catastrophic. In a similar situation, landowners in the UK would receive 5,000 pounds Sterling (approx. 7,400 euros) rising to 14,000 pounds Sterling (approx. 20,600 euros) per annum per turbine.

Apparently, Enernova used a 1970 army map to locate an appropriate area for the turbines, but, in the 30 years or so between the map being published and the reality of the present landscape, construction has taken place and property has been built in Pincho. With vast empty land all around, residents are at a loss to understand, firstly, why it is necessary to build so near inhabited houses and, secondly, why the rapid erection of a test tower, only months after the representative arrived, ruining part of the picturesque landscape of the hinterland.

Turbines cost around one-and-a-half million euros and are simply enormous. The foundations require a 200 cubic metre hole to be excavated and filled with a reinforced concrete plinth the size of two double-decker buses. Installation will mean lorries and earth-moving equipment tearing up and disrupting the countryside for a couple of years, even before a single turbine appears. It is not only the human population that will be affected – eagles, vultures, osprey and other wildlife will have their homes violated by the turbines.

One Pincho resident is trying to understand the logic of the situation: “On the one hand, the government wants foreigners to come to Portugal and invest heavily in the natural beauty of the area, but, on the other, it is prepared to ruin one of the most untouched places in the Algarve by defacing it with these monstrosities.”

Residents are also not convinced that, at the end of the 25-year contract, Enernova will remove the turbines, take away the concrete, fill the holes and return Pincho to its former self, as it has promised.

Properties will now be almost impossible to sell for any sort of profit once in the shadow of the turbines. Residents are clamouring at official offices for confirmation of the situation, an explanation as to why Pincho was the chosen site and information on compensation. However, according to the property owners, local authorities are “protesting ignorance”, copies of contracts are proving impossible to obtain and any communication with Enernova is at an absolute zero. At the end of their tether, residents have contracted a top legal firm to tackle the problem.

“No one disputes the threat of global warming and that wind power avoids a lot of gas emissions. It is the frustration of knowing that there is plenty of uninhabited land perfect for the wind farms, rather than Pincho,” said one of the property owners.

With a little consideration by the government, residents believe that a site on the ridge road from Aljezur to Marmelete could be utilised. “It is open to the wind, there are no houses nearby as no one ever wanted to live up there because it is too windy!”

No one wants to live in the shadow of a wind turbine or having the sunlight strobing into their bedrooms through colossal propeller blades, courtesy of Hitachi Inc. for a 500-euro handshake.

The group of property owners has a meeting scheduled today (May 6) with European MEP for Algarve, Deputada Jamila Madeira, who comes to Faro from Brussels regularly, in the hope that a solution can be reached. Read the outcome of this meeting in next week’s edition of The Resident. Louise Pimm