MARIGOT–Réserve Naturelle Romain Renoux Manager has expressed concern over a proposal to install a wind farm on the island of Tintamarre as an alternative energy source. He questions whether the project can be accomplished legally, as the island is part of the Réserve.
The project first came to light as one of the agenda points discussed at the last Executive Council meeting on April 19.
The Martinique-based company MG Energy proposes to install 10 one-megawatt wind turbines on the island. The Executive Council has given only a favourable opinion on the concept, but not a green light for such a project.
Renoux said it was odd the Réserve had not been consulted about the plan, but it had been presented to the Collectivité first.
The coastline of Tintamarre is in the Conservatoire du Littoral and Réserve and therefore protected, but according to Renoux, part of the island in the middle is not in the Réserve.
“I wonder how they would be able to build the infrastructure without going through the protected coastline,” he said. “It’s doubtful. But at the same time I’m very worried about this because of France’s new policies for pushing alternative energy projects forward.”
“They should find another location,” he added. “Tintamarre is one of the unspoilt jewels of St. Martin. It’s an important sea bird nesting place. My second concern is: how are they going to transfer the electricity to St. Martin? To do that you have to cross the Réserve, and probably with big cables. But that won’t be allowed by the Réserve Naturelle decree. It will be interesting to see how people react, and I hope they do.”
Renoux acknowledged that St. Martin ultimately had to embrace renewable energy concepts due to the soaring cost of fuel.
“Dependence on oil leaves us vulnerable to market trends worldwide. But the Collectivité should be more proactive with its green energy policy by mapping out areas that can be developed for alternative energy first, rather than letting outsiders come in and dictate to us where they are going to install a project.”
He said the project undoubtedly would have an economic impact, spoiling the allure of the island for tourists and making it difficult for the some 60 companies to sell day charters or excursions.
The Tintamarre project stems from France’s new environmental law “Grenelles de l’Environment” which outlines objectives for producing renewable energy. To achieve this, five zones were created in the overseas departments. St. Martin and St. Barths fall in a zone with Guadeloupe. The Environmental Commission invited bids for projects producing a maximum of 20 megawatts of electricity through wind power with a deadline for submission of projects set for the end of May 2011.
Opposition leader Alain Richardson, one of the Executive Council members reviewing the project, said it might not even reach its conclusion because of the legal and environmental studies that had to be done first.
“What we gave was an approval for the company to go ahead with its studies,” he said. “It was not an approval of the project.”
However, there is a clause in the law stipulating that if the mast of the turbine does not exceed 50 metres in height a full impact study and public enquiry is not required. The MG turbines as proposed in its project do not exceed 50 metres.
The 800-kw turbines proposed for Red Rock, French Cul-de-Sac, in 2006 by comparison would have been 91 metres in height.
“Our group nevertheless demanded in this case that the impact studies and public enquiry be carried out as a compulsory measure,” Richardson stressed, “and, importantly, the studies on how they propose to transfer the electricity to the mainland.”
Richardson estimated 10 megawatts of wind-generated power translated to about 20-25 per cent of the total electricity consumption of the French side.
“If the project ever goes through, the Collectivité in the future would have an option of increasing the energy production to 20 megawatts. But no decision will be made until those impact studies have been completed and seen by us.”
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