Plans for a Cozumel wind farm were denied by the Mexican government’s environmental department, Semarnat, this month, but the company behind them said they won’t give up.
Today, in an exclusive interview with This is Cozumel, John Prock, General Director at Mexico Power Group, said they will be “downsizing the project” and applying for permission again.
He added that there needs to be a balance “between the positive environmental impact thru CO2 reduction and the local conditions.”
Although the environmental benefits of wind energy are generally well known, the Cozumel wind farm project has been criticized for its plans to construct turbines on ecologically sensitive parts of the island, including nature reserves that are protected by local, national and international laws and agreements.
A group of top Mexican academics and civil institutions publicly denounced the plans after they were submitted to Semarnat in May. Although the group admitted that using wind energy can be beneficial, they said Cozumel is not the right place to build turbines.
Led by the Mexican Center for Environmental Law (CEMDA) the group argued – among other things – that the wind farm would threaten endangered species in Cozumel, destroy precious mangrove and jungle, damage underground water supplies and cause years of disruption to the local community.
The project was originally announced just over a year ago in Mexico City by Mexican President, Felipe Calderón. The plans were ambitious from the outset, proposing the construction of 115 turbines over the course of nearly 10 years, on an area the size of thousands of American football fields.
In May, Mexico Power Group submitted their environmental impact assessment for the wind farm to Semarnat for approval. The documents, totaling more than 500 pages, candidly identified 32 negative effects the project would have for Cozumel, but proposed “preventive measures” which they said would bring them all within acceptable limits.
The CEMDA group was fast to criticize the risk assessment, lobbying Semarnat directly and publishing a detailed press release listing their concerns. Locals also organized a protest in front of Cozumel’s City Hall.
When the decision came, Semarnat said Mexico Power Group’s plans had been denied due to “inaccuracies and inconsistencies [that] don’t allow the dimensions, location and reach [of the project] to be known”. They also implied that it went against local law and international environmental agreements.
In response, Mexico Power Group told This is Cozumel that their revised plans will now be for a smaller wind farm of just 26 turbines, in a “downsized project along with a different layout in the far south of the island”.
Protecting the island
The CEMDA group welcomed Semarnat’s decision and called on Mexican President, Felipe Calderón, to sign off a new protected area on the island.
They said all the necessary legal steps have been completed already and only the president’s authorization is needed to help guarantee a safe future for Cozumel’s fragile natural and cultural resources.
Local press also reported that the head of Semarnat, Juan Rafael Elvira Quesada, was in Cozumel on business last week, although the reason for his visit was not known.
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