Uruguay will ease environmental licensing requirements that had become a major bottleneck for wind developers, Recharge has learned.
Energy minister Ramón Méndez Galain says projects currently going through the environmental permitting process will not now be subject to criteria that several Uruguayan sources had claimed could make developments unviable and were outside international standards.
The rules, drawn up by Uruguay’s environment ministry Dinama, include requiring a minimum of 300 metres between turbines and property lines and a minimum distance of 3km from homes.
“This is a big, big problem for Uruguay,” says Fernando Schaich of Seg Ingenieria, which is developing the 100MW Agua Leguas wind project in partnership with German companies Eab and Enercon.
The partners have yet to receive the environmental permissions they need to sign a contract awarded by state utility UTE last August, and say they have received no answers or guidance from Dinama.
Méndez tells Recharge that “the criteria has been reviewed” and will now not apply to those projects currently going through the environmental permitting process.
“President [José] Mujica has been very concerned with this,” says Méndez, who has made wind a priority for the energy ministry.
Schaich says UTE president Gonzalo Casaravilla has also been pushing hard for progress over the issue.
Future wind farm projects may still face greater scrutiny and stricter guidelines from Dinama – though the criteria will be analysed again before being set in stone.
A lack of manpower has also slowed Dinama’s work, and the ministry of energy will fund four additional workers to help speed up the process.
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