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Rural Spanish villages to be ‘destroyed’ with wind turbines in push for green energy 

Credit:  By James Badcock Teruel | 20 May 2023 | telegraph.co.uk ~~

Joaquín Gargallo says ‘these foreign investors are going to destroy the landscape and my livelihood’

In the remote mountains of Spain’s Maestrazgo region, Joaquín Gargallo wrestles with the steering wheel of his battered Land Rover as it plunges down a winding track.

“The Communist maquis resisted the Franco regime in these hills longer than anywhere else. Now these foreign investors are going to destroy the landscape and my livelihood with their giant wind turbines and we won’t even get a say in the matter,” said Mr Gargallo, a farmer who ekes out a living breeding cattle and collecting mushrooms in this unspoilt corner of Spain.

The sleepy mountain village of Mosqueruela, where Mr Gargallo lives, will soon be surrounded by some 35 turbines up to 650ft tall, part of a complex of 22 wind farms set to be installed in what has become known as the Maestrazgo cluster in Teruel province.

Mr Gargallo makes a living breeding cattle in this remote area of Spain

The Spanish government has approved the macro-project, consisting of 118 wind turbines, to help the country reach its target of generating nearly three quarters of its energy from renewable sources by 2030.

But the 700MW of power that the giant wind farm generates will almost exclusively be sent across the mountains to supply the cities and tourist resorts along the nearby Valencian coast, prompting accusations that the government, in its rush to wean the country from fossil fuels, has resurrected the resource extraction of Spain’s colonial past within its own borders.

Protesters have argued against disrupting centuries-old ways of using the land as it is Credit: Europa Press News

Locals such as Mr Gargallo wonder what is sustainable about transforming the landscape at altitudes of between 5,000 and 6,000ft and disrupting centuries-old ways of using the land as it is, grazing cattle among the patchy pine tree forests.

“They say this is the last train for this area and we have to catch it; actually, the train is going to roll right over us,” Mr Gargallo told The Telegraph.

Mr Gargallo, who is 47 and was brought up in a farmhouse near Mosqueruela, said his access to the nine plots of land he rents will be disrupted by machinery and the positioning of the eventual turbines will make several of the sinkholes at which his cattle drink unusable.

“This area has EU Natura 2000 protection status; we have had to abide by the restrictions that entails, but these investment companies apparently don’t,” he said, referring to a network of conservation areas set up to protect Europe’s endangered habitats and species.

When one of Mr Gargallo’s cattle dies, the three species of vultures in the area feast on its carcass. “According to the project documents, now I will have to collect the carcass if it is near a turbine so as not to put the vultures in danger – we’ve gone through the looking glass.”

In Mosqueruela, conflict is brewing over the wind-turbine plan, with arguments springing up over whether the position of the windmills benefits one landowner over another. There is also a rumour that the local council has removed itself from the consortium of town halls negotiating with Forestalia, the company behind the cluster, and could miss out on the promise of free electricity.

“If they put up the turbines and give free electricity to all the other villages except Mosqueruela, this place will die,” said one local business owner who did not wish to be named.

Mosqueruela’s mayor, Alba Lucea, declined to discuss the matter with The Telegraph.

Asked about the size and impact of the eventual turbines, a spokesman for Forestalia said that the company’s involvement in the project ended at the “ready-to-build” moment.

Forestalia, which includes Singapore’s sovereign investment fund among its investors, has pledged to provide an unspecified amount of capital to boost employment in the area.

But critics remain sceptical, and argue that Maestrazgo’s potential for tourism, already the largest industry in some parts of the mountain range, will suffer irreparable damage from eyesore turbines.

“It’s colonialism. It’s a reproduction of the 19th and 20th century model in which raw materials were extracted from these territories without leaving any benefit behind,” Tomás Guitarte, the only MP in Spain’s parliament for the localist party Teruel Exists, told The Telegraph.

“The locations are not chosen for the right reasons. This is just about cheap land attracting investment funds who have no connection or commitment to the area.”

‘No obligation’ to help community

The MP explained that the energy companies pay rent to the landowners directly affected but have no obligation to help the community at large.

Mr Guitarte hopes that polls are right and that his party will hold the balance of power in the Aragon regional parliament after elections on May 28. If so, he said his party will demand a moratorium on renewable projects and a shift in approach so that at least 20 per cent of benefits from such infrastructure stays in the area.

Across Teruel, the landscape’s subtle tones of brown and grey are increasingly punctuated by shiny white turbines and the black brilliance of solar farms.

“It’s an invasion,” said Isabel Pérez from the village of Galve as she looked along the valley where her mother’s corn field now forms part of a sprawling photovoltaic installation.

“Someone phoned her, and they said she had to sign up or they would expropriate her land. She’s 81 years old! Most years they pay her €1,000 but she wanted to keep her field.”

Mr Gargallo intends to leave Mosqueruela if the battle to stop the wind farms is lost.

“I won’t stay here to see this mafia destroy the mountainside, although of course my house will be worth less when I come to sell up.”

Source:  By James Badcock Teruel | 20 May 2023 | telegraph.co.uk

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

The copyright of this article resides with the author or publisher indicated. As part of its noncommercial educational effort to present the environmental, social, scientific, and economic issues of large-scale wind power development to a global audience seeking such information, National Wind Watch endeavors to observe “fair use” as provided for in section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law and similar “fair dealing” provisions of the copyright laws of other nations. Send requests to excerpt, general inquiries, and comments via e-mail.

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