Part of the landscape which residents say will be destroyed if project moves forward
Part of the landscape which residents say will be destroyed if project moves forward

Residents file lawsuit against massive solar farm project in Silves

Solar farm in Silves will have over 102,000 solar panels

Local residents have filed a lawsuit against a project to build a massive 96-hectare solar farm in Algoz, Silves.

The Residents Association of Larga Vista, Foral filed the lawsuit at Loulé Court on January 10, citing major concerns over the project’s “ecological footprint” and “lack of community engagement” despite the association’s support of renewable energy.

Map of area due to be occupied by the solar farm

The project is led by Neoen, which describes itself as a 100% independent renewable energy company founded in 2008 in France.

Construction of the solar farm is set to begin very soon in Quinta da Larga Vista – Foral and last 14 months, the company has announced. The expected average annual production of the farm is “94 GWh (gigawatt hours) of green energy,” it added.

However, local residents are hoping that the legal action they have taken will stop the construction from moving forward.

The planned solar farm will include 102,399 solar panels, eight transformers, a substation, and 5km of overhead high-tension lines. 

As the residents point out, “this massive project is positioned alarmingly close to residential areas, as little as 20 metres in places, and is located above critical groundwater resources.” The association also highlights that the solar farm is due to be built on land classified as REN (National Ecological Reserve).

A colony of pink orchids, the kind of wildlife that residents are campaigning to protect
A colony of pink orchids, the kind of wildlife that residents are campaigning to protect

In a statement to the press, the concerned residents have boiled their concerns down to five main points:

  • the project will completely transform the landscape and remove all vegetation;
  • the proximity to homes is unsettling, contradicting LNEG’s (National Laboratory of Energy and Geology) recommendation for a 500m buffer zone;
  • soil compaction will present a significant threat to the recharging of the Querença-Silves aquifer system, “vital for local water supply”;
  • construction of 5km of high tension overhead electricity lines to Tunes, passing through areas or countryside designated as RAN (National Agricultural Reserve);
  • additional environmental issues which include the need for water to clean solar panels, loss of biodiversity, bird mortality due to the ‘lake effect’ of panels, soil contamination, potential increased local temperatures, and possible health impacts on nearby residents.

Considering all these concerns, the association decided this month to move forward with a lawsuit, the main basis of which is the “lack of a detailed Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)” before the licence was granted to the developer by authorities.

“Only a basic environmental incidence review (EINCA) was carried out which did not address in detail the project’s impact on any of the fundamental concerns listed above,” the residents state.

To fund its legal procedures, the association has created two crowdfunding pages (here and here) with the goal of raising €12,000.

“While the local residents are contributing to these costs with what they can, we have a long way to go to achieving our first target,” the association says, adding: “the success of our legal challenge is not guaranteed, but our children and those who love the area will not forgive us if we do nothing!”

The local residents also say they are taking inspiration from the “recent successful campaign against a similar project near Estoi” – referring to the the massive solar farm, involving over 175,000 panels, which was planned to cover a key water catchment area before being rejected.

“Together, we aim to ensure that renewable energy projects are aligned with environmental stewardship and community interests,” the association says.

By Michael Bruxo

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