Over the recent weeks, the Superior Court of Justice of Galicia has agreed to temporarily halt the authorizations given by the Xunta Council to the developer company for the execution of the Campelo and Bustelo wind farms.
Two companies called Greenalia Wind Power Campelo, S.L.U. and Greenalia Wind Power Bustelo, S.L.U. promote the Bustelo windfarm and the Campelo windfarm (located between Coristanco and Santa Comba). Bustelo has a capacity of 45 MW while Campelo has a capacity of 40.5 MW. The two wind farms plan to install the same Lagerway wind turbine, which has a nominal unit power of 4.5 MW, a tower height of 111 meters and a rotor diameter of 136 meters. The planned budget for the construction amounts to approximately 75 million euros with an estimated production of 263.25 GWH per year.
With these data, the two wind farms are likely to become highly productive with a potential of over 3,000 operating hours per year and a high global economic impact. Their turnover could total 31.3 million euros per year if we take the average sales price of electricity provided by Red Eléctrica Española for the year 2021, and it may even reach 56 million euros per year if we take the average price for 2022.
Campelo began its admission for processing in 2010 under the developer Kaekias Eólica, S.A. The authorization procedure was submitted to public information in 2012. In 2018 ownership of the wind farm was transferred to Greenalia Wind Power Campelo, S.L.U. Several technical aspects were modified, and the project was once again submitted to public information that very same year. Numerous allegations led to some changes in the location of the wind turbines. The Environmental Impact Statement was formulated at the end of 2020. On 18 November 2021, the Xunta Council agreed to authorize the park and declared its public utility.
For its part, Greenalia Power, S.L.U requested authorization for the Bustelo wind farm in October 2017. It was submitted to public information in 2018. In February 2019, the developer became Greenalia Wind Power, S.L.U. The Environmental Impact Statement was issued In November 2020. In 2021, ownership of the wind farm was transferred to its current developer, Greenalia Wind Power Bustelo, S.L.U. Finally, the General Directorate for Energy Planning and Natural Resources granted prior administrative and construction authorizations for the wind farm in June 2021.
The neighborhood platform “NON Eólicos Bustelo – Campelo – Monte Toural” is the most representative social movement of local opposition to these wind farms. For years, this platform developed training and gathered information to share with the public. They have participated in many social movements at the Galician and Spanish level; and they were (and continue to be) part of a social movement called “Wind Power Yes, but not Like This.” The networks are full of demonstrations in the neighborhoods of Coristanco, Santa Comba and Carballo where they have built their speech in defense of their lands, landscapes and natural resources against occupation attempts by companies that have nothing to do with the community and local development.
The neighborhood platform “NON Eólicos Bustelo – Campelo – Monte Toural” has held many meetings with the neighborhood concerning the wind farms as well as their associated infrastructures. This platform gives special attention to the environmental effects of the evacuation lines to the substation located in Mesón do Vento (Ordes), a macro centralization point for dozens of electricity generation infrastructures. Arguments concerning the well-being of the neighborhood and the social and economic dynamization of the population centers closest to the wind farms are always present in its writings and public statements.
This social mobilization has ultimately led to the presentation of lawsuit proceedings at the Superior Court of Justice of Galicia claiming the annulment of the aforementioned agreements of the Xunta de Galicia authorizing these two wind farms.
The Association for the Ecological Defense of Galiza (ADEGA) and the Platform for the Defense of the Cantabrian Mountains (PDCC) were the entities that filed these lawsuits (both in the Campelo lawsuit and ADEGA in the Bustelo lawsuit). Although we are only aware of the sentences handed down by the TSXG concerning their precautionary cessation and the information collected in the press, these contentious administrative appeals represent a qualitative change in the strategy developed by the social movement “Wind Power Yes, but not Like This”.
ADEGA, legally constituted in 1976, defines itself as a democratic, independent, non-profit environmental association that works in defense of the Galician and global environment and advocates an ecologically sustainable and socially just development model. The youngest of these two entities is the PDCC, which emerged as an association in 2004 in an aim to defend the Cantabrian Mountains as a landscape and environmental unit and a unique natural system within the European territory. Along with other entities, the PDCC was the developer of the Fund for the Legal Defense of the Cantabrian Mountains, which aims to promote legal actions in defense of biodiversity and the landscape of the Cantabrian Mountains and its surroundings against the avalanche of wind power macro-projects. We understand that the filed lawsuits are associated with this Fund.
The lawsuits filed request the annulment of the administrative authorization given by the Xunta de Galicia. Since the resolution of this lawsuit will take a long time, the claimant entities have requested a precautionary cessation, which the Court has agreed to do. The literal content of the judiciary resolutions of for Campelo and Bustelo can be seen here. Our summary of the three central arguments presented by the claimant is as follows:
The Xunta de Galicia, as the defendant, points out that there is no risk of execution and stresses the energy crisis situation and the EU recommendation to speed up authorization procedures for renewable projects. For its part, the developer understands that the claimant wants the judgement to rest on the merits of the lawsuit debate and denies the existence of an appearance of good right as well as the potential risk to the environment upon execution. It additional defends that the cessation is detrimental to the developer as well as to public interest.
The Court considers that a windfarm is already present a little over two kilometers away from this area and the defendant presents no document justifying the need for new parks, “not even given the incidence of the lower gas input on occasion of the Ukrainian war.” This is why the Court, upon evaluating the conflicting interests, is inclined to favor the protection of the environment. It therefore agrees to the precautionary cessation and recalls that two previous sentences with the same publication and hearing defects have led it to this consideration. The sentences included sureties totaling 10,000 euros each to become effective.
This initiative is also part of the qualitative change mentioned above. The claimants launched a process to collect, through individual contributions, the amounts required by the Court to stop the projects.
The micro financing campaign, developed under the slogan ‘You can stop them!’, took place until 28 October 2022. Its aim was to raise the sum of €20,000. Having reached a figure sufficient enough to cover the aforementioned sureties prior to the originally scheduled date, the campaign ended. The campaign included the possibility of making donations through micro-loans, in which the recovery of the capital was subordinated to the achievement of a final favorable sentence.
From the GWO we do not know whether this type of collective mechanisms to strengthen environmental campaigns has ever been used in Galicia. The success of its implementation shows how widespread the perception of social non-participation in wind development is. Additionally, it reveals that the implementation model imposed by the Galician government is not very resilient to local and rural demands for the conservation of natural resources and collective participation in the benefits/profits derived from the private use of a common resource.