The changing face of rural Alentejo. Image: Nuno Veiga/ Lusa
The changing face of rural Alentejo. Image: Nuno Veiga/ Lusa

Ecologists condemn location for new Alentejo solar plant

ZERO says project “puts into question one of richest areas in Baixo Alentejo”

One of Portugal’s largest environmental associations, ZERO, is contesting the construction of a solar photovoltaic plant in Ferreira do Alentejo (Beja) because it considers it “puts into question one of the richest areas of the Baixo Alentejo” for nature conservation.

In a statement sent to Lusa, ZERO stresses the plant – for which public consultation on the Environmental Impact Study (EIA) ends today – is a critical area for conservation, and should be protected “contributing to meeting the target of protecting 30% of the European Union’s terrestrial areas by 2030, defined in the Biodiversity Strategy”..

The new project, covering an area of 750 hectares, is being organised by companies, IncognitWorld and Qsun Portugal 4, representing an investment of €156.4 million.

According to the non-technical summary of the EIA, the plant will have a maximum nominal power of 187 megavolt-ampere (MVA) and almost 234 kilowatts of installed peak power (kWp), allowing it to produce an average of 451-gigawatt hours per year (GWh/year).

In its statement, ZERO notes that the geological characteristics of this area “have determined the remarkable heterogeneity of its biological communities,” particularly plant life, and as a habitat for mammals and birds.

“The richness of this area in terms of biodiversity led to it being considered for classification as a Natura 2000 Site, under the Habitats Directive (Directive 92/43/EEC)”, said the association, admitting that the process has not yet been concluded.

“Only recently have the botanical values in presence begun to be more fully known, and which are now recognised as unique, housing Rare, Endemic, Localised, Threatened and Endangered (RELAPE) species”.

Among the immense floristic wealth, there are eight nuclei with vulnerable, critically endangered or almost threatened species that will be “directly affected by the implementation of the (solar) panels, the installation of fencing, new paths and a fuel management strip”.

“Given the high ignorance that still exists about the area and the dynamics of its species, there is a high risk of affecting currently unidentified values,” says ZERO, adding that over the last 20 years, this area “has gradually been occupied by olive groves and orchards, and by a first solar power plant”, installed recently.

Considering the site for this second plant is one of the highest in the region “with great visual exposure, Zero’s environmentalists warn that replacement of its natural areas “will constitute another contribution to the growing artificialisation of the landscape“, adds Lusa.

And last, but not least, the association maintains the area chosen is “totally outside” the preferential zones of a study coordinated by the National Energy and Geology Laboratory (LNEG) for the installation of this type of project.

Source: LUSA