Decree Law 16/2019 of the Generalitat de Catalunya has opened Pandora’s box to create requests for solar installations and photovoltaic energy . The regulation, which goes beyond other urban and natural legislation, has generated an avalanche of projects in Catalonia, especially on land on rustic land , cheaper than industrial land, and in unpopulated areas, far from areas of energy consumption. When devising the possibility of business, companies and investment funds have landed in this area, offering farmers up to 1,300 euros per hectare, a figure that multiplies by six what they would charge for farmland. The boom has caused that there are already 424 solar installation projects planned in Catalonia, according to data managed by the Unió de Pagesos union.
The entities in defense of the territory denounce that the initiatives “destroy the environment” because they do not respect the environmental impact. In fact, some of those affected by the concentration of wind energy turbines and solar panels have joined in a platform to warn about “the growth of industrial estates for electricity generation.”
Open a general debate on the viability of the rural world and the need to protect productive agricultural farms. That is the proposal of the agrarian union Unió de Pagesos (UP). After “the ban on energy companies has been opened, the time has come for regulation”, says the head of rural development at UP, Josep Carles Vicente . The union wants smaller renewable energy facilities, which take advantage of the roofs of the industrial estates so as not to continue tearing the territory apart.
Democratize territorial energy
The model claimed by UP is based on smaller installations, which promote self-consumption, and which involve the inhabitants of the territory where the solar panel or wind farm is located. To do this, it demands that the investment be assumed by local entities and public administrations . Instead of creating new spaces, the union raises the need to take advantage of the roofs of buildings in urbanizable areas, so that the point of generation is as close as possible to the point of consumption.
Currently, companies and investment funds have requested more than 700 hectares for projects of solar power plants and more than fifty applications for wind farms. Vicente demands “to control the agrarian speculation bubbles and that the territory can decide on their management.” In this sense, remember that there are rural areas that are large producers of energy that later do not receive any benefit either for the environmental impact or for advantages in consumption. “It is necessary to democratize territorial energy”, suggests Vicente.
Farmers regret that the model of installing renewable energies on undeveloped rural land causes irreversible damage to the landscape
Farmers regret that the model of concentration and expansion of renewable energy facilities on undeveloped rural land, promoted by companies and investment funds, has consequences on agricultural farms, irrigation systems or irreversible damage to the landscape. For this reason, they require the Generalitat to “analyze the effects of agrarian spaces before authorizing an initiative.”
Skyscrapers of public interest
The aforementioned decree makes it easier for the facilities to settle on rustic floors. The Grup d’Estudi i Protecció dels Ecosistemes Catalans (Gepec) denounces that “the projects involve destruction in the territory.” For this reason, it has presented a dozen technical reports to judicially stop them. The Gepec Environmental Defense technician, Joan Ramon Mendo , points out that, in addition to the effects on flora and fauna, those collected by the landscape impact are brutal. “They are devices of more than six MW, since the law does not limit the height or power, which are like skyscrapers.”
Mendo specifies that the avalanche of projects that the entity is analyzing come from companies such as Naturgy, Gamesa, Nordex, Green Capital Power, Energía de Portugal, shell companies of these companies or investment funds. It ensures that these take advantage of legal loopholes, since installations of more than 50 MW have to be processed at the state level. “They chop up the projects and present four of 40 MW, trying to benefit from the fact that the regional regulations are less rigid.”
The number of cases grows in such a way that entities such as Gepec have been overwhelmed to study in detail the relevance of the projects. Only in the area of Tarragona and Terres del Ebro there are more than twenty . “The previous regulations established Priority Development Zones (ZDP), which have now disappeared with the decree-law, and you cannot manage the environmental impact because you can find four or five promoters interested in the same installation.”
The economic advantages offered by rustic flooring compared to industrial flooring and the technical feasibility that allows placing many appliances at a low price are two of the factors that drive these firms to bet on this business. “They don’t even need to buy the land because the activity is considered to be in the public interest. Mendo adds that the brick bubble has now moved to renewables. “Through screen companies, they land in unpopulated areas such as Segarra or l’Anoia and without any kind of participatory process, on which the inhabitants of the territory can decide, they create wind installations even in areas of the Natura 2000 Network because the regulations authorizes it.