A few months ago, the Galician Wind Energy Observatory already drew attention to the fact that all Galician rustic territory without environmental protection would eventually become target sites for new wind farms. The Xunta de Galicia at first reported negatively on wind farms that intended to place their facilities outside the areas established for this purpose in the Galician Wind Sector Plan (PSEG), but the Xunta Council has now made the decision (in three different moments) to propel the processing of 13 wind farms by taking advantage of “the figure of exceptionality” included in the LAEGA. These wind farms have over 50 MW of power. Although their authorization corresponds to the Spanish government, the Xunta Council has enabled “exceptionality” for their installation in areas outside those included in the PSEG.
These three decisions occurred on 23 June and 3 and 17 November. In the month of June, they agreed to leverage from the figure of exceptionality to declare the Orzar (56MW) and Tornado (67.2MW) wind farms “as projects having a clear territorial impact due to their socioeconomic entity which serves as a structural backbone for the territory”. The document that publicizes the agreement indicates that “if it is approved, its execution will be allowed outside the areas provided for this purpose by the Galician Wind Sector Plan”.
These two wind farms submitted the environmental impact study, the request for prior administrative authorization and the request for recognition of public utility to public information in February 2021. Its developers are Greenalia Wind Power Orzar, S.L.U. and Greenalia Wind Power Tornado, S.L.U..
The Xunta Council links the processing of these wind farms with the company Showa Denko, an electro-intensive industry located in A Coruña given that this will lower their electricity bill. The PPA (Power Purchase Agreement) contracts between Showa Denko and “…the two wind farms -promoted by Greenalia with an investment of 97.8 million euros- would allow for a savings of more than 60M€ in the first eight years that would favor the competitiveness of the plant and its future viability. At the same time, it is considering the expansion of its current headquarters in A Coruña with a total workforce of over 170 employees”. In the publication made on occasion of the agreement of 17 November (see below) the Xunta indicates that this company will cover 81% of its energy needs.
In the agreement of 3 November, the exceptional wind farms are Borrasca (84MW), Monzón (50.4MW) and Ventisca (89.6MW). These wind farms submitted the environmental impact study and the request for prior administrative authorization to public information in August 2021. Ventisca and Monzón were put together in the same procedure with the Boura wind farm (see further ahead). Its developers are Greenalia Wind Power Borrasca, SL; Greenalia Wind Power Ventisca, SL and Greenalia Wind Power Monzón, SL.
In this case, the Xunta Council links the processing of these parks with the electro-intensive company Alcoa San Cibrao to try to lower their electricity bill, an “essential requirement to be able to reactivate the production of primary aluminum, currently halted due to the increase in the price of electricity”.
With this Agreement “it is estimated that these PPA contracts (Power Purchase Agreement, energy purchase agreements) between the company and the developer of the wind farms -Greenalia plans to invest 267 million euros- would cover 9% of Alcoa’s energy needs.”
The exceptional windfarms included in the 17 November agreement are Tesouro (60MW), Caaveiro (72MW), Badulaque (90MW), Barqueiro (150MW), Santuario (180MW), Moeche (53MW), Levante (106.4MW) and Boura (72.8MW). The first 6 of these wind farms were developed by Enel Green Power España, SL, the first two of which submitted the environmental impact study and the request for prior administrative authorization to public information on 15 June. The rest of these 6 windfarms did so on 7 July. Levante and Boura were developed respectively by Greenalia Wind Power Boura, S.L.U. and Greenalia Wind Power Levante, SLU. Theses two wind farms submitted the environmental impact study and the request for prior administrative authorization to public information; Boura was made public on 18 August, 2021, and Levante was made public on April 22, 2022.
The Xunta de Galicia points out that it resorts to this exceptional procedure because this way “…the companies Alcoa San Cibrao and Sentury Tire will be able to access green energy at a more competitive price.” Moreover, it specifically claims that Sentury will cover 100% of the demand for this company’s future tire plant in As Pontes while Alcoa will cover 45% of its energy needs at the San Cibrao plant.
During the periods of public exposure, the Xunta issued a series of reports for most of these wind farms. Herein (only in Galician) you can check the one issued for the Santuario wind farm. A summary of the content of these reports follows below:
Based on the previous legal basis, the Xunta conducted a spatial analysis of the projects to verify whether wind farm infrastructures were inside or outside the Wind Development Areas included in the PSEG. They indicated that this sector plan is the “instrument that defines the areas where it is possible to develop projects for the use of wind energy within the Autonomous Community.”
Considering the previous precedents, the Xunta gave an unfavorable report on the projects of more than 50 MW that had been settled in the Wind Development Areas for their failure to comply with the provisions of the PSEG and the LAEGA. Among them were most of the 13 projects included herein.
The Galician Wind Observatory conducted various legal consultations regarding these facts and decisions. With the sole intention of adding arguments for consideration in the design of public policies, we share the following reflections.
The Galician Wind Sector Plan (PSEG) is the basic planning instrument for the use of wind power in Galicia, as established in article 5.2. of the Law regulating the use of wind energy in Galicia that creates the Wind Canon and the Environmental Compensation Fund (LAEGA). Initially, the PSEG marks the maximum area affected by the wind sector that influences the (re)qualification of Rustic Land (SR) throughout the whole territory.
The PSEG stems from the Sector Plan, an instrument of territorial planning that is defined as such in art. 35 of the Galician Land Management Law (LOTG). As mentioned, the wind sector has its own reference law that designs the contents of the PSEG. It specifically does so in article 6 of the LAEGA:
“1. The Galician Wind Sector Plan will cover those areas where, subsequent to the INEGA report, usable wind resources are reportedly present, and it will be binding for the different subjects operating in the sector.
2. The wind sector Plan will, at the least, contain the following determinations:
a) Delimitation of the territorial areas where the infrastructures and facilities object of the plan may be located.
b) Description of the widespread characteristics of the infrastructures, endowments or facilities provided for in the plan.
c) Guidelines for the elaboration of sectoral projects or those subject to municipal license in the case provided for in article 39.2 of this law.
d) Measures for articulation with local planning and deadline for its adaptation.
e) Territorial and environmental impact.
3. The Galician Wind Sector Plan will be processed as a sector plan of supra-municipal incidence… and it will establish the general conditions for the development of infrastructure, endowments and facilities of wind farms within the territory of the autonomous community.”
The LAEGA boasts of plans for wind use in article 5. It establishes the PSEG as a planning instrument and gives it content in article 6 itself, but it also establishes an important exception:
“4. No Wind farms may be established outside the areas included in the Galician Wind Sector Plan, except when
• operating wind farms are substantially modified in terms of regulatory development,
• as well as those projects that have a clear territorial impact due to their economic and social entity, serving as a structural backbone for the territory and declared as such by the Council of the Xunta de Galicia, as proposed by the competent Department in energy matters.”
The result is that a Wind Farm Project of Autonomous Interest (PIAPE), a sector project and therefore an instrument hierarchically subordinated to a Sector Plan (according to articles 19, 20, 36, 38 and mainly 39 of the LOTG), actually violates this principle as a consequence of this very provision. Likewise, this is hardly compatible with what is prescribed in the 5th Additional Provision itself, claiming the effectiveness of the PIAPE as indicated in articles 46 and 48 of the LOTG, which point to its contextual effectiveness and therefore subordinate it to a sectoral plan, in this case to the PSEG.
Well, now is the time to wait for events to unfold. The reading of the three agreements of the Council of the Xunta de Galicia reveal some decisions that pursue two objectives. The first of them is to confront central government; this procedure is expressed in many of the lines included in the declaration itself. For example, “Given the chaotic energy policy of the Government and the lack of concrete solutions for the electro-intensive industry”, or “The Galician Government expects the sensitivity of the central Executive.”
The second is to favor the large multinational industries in the energy and electro-intensive industrial sector. Favoring the Galician industrial fabric is a good initiative. This is present in the decisions of the Xunta Council and in the aforementioned Law 3/2022 of 18 October on business areas in Galicia. It establishes new criteria for determining the strategic nature of industrial projects by meeting at least two criteria (minimum investment of 20 million euros, at least 100 direct jobs, which are strategic within the context of next generation funds). It also establishes that some wind projects may be considered a priority if they allocate 50% of their production to the companies with which they sign a direct long-term energy trading agreement at a competitive price.
From the GWO we miss what we have been demanding for years. The rural world, agricultural, livestock and forestry operations, small and medium-sized companies established inside these territories, as well as those of a local energy nature seem to be non-existent for the Xunta de Galicia and its policy to promote renewable sources and wind farms in particular. The Law of Business Areas does not even proactively mention the rural environment. All the criteria defined to consider projects a priority and/or of strategic nature are meant to be met by large companies, mostly multinationals. This incentive policy forgets that the greatest generation of employment occurs with small and medium-sized companies. It neglects the proven fact that capital-intensive investments are precisely the ones that have the least capacity to generate employment. On the other hand, let us not forget that the increasing cost of electricity affects small and medium-sized companies and the self-employed to a much greater extent. The GWO has precisely been requesting that these last economic interests be given preferential access to systems for obtaining cheaper energy. This is the only way we can guarantee the sustainability of the business fabric generating permanent employment and long-term local and regional economic activity. That “non-swallow” fabric, which is not in Galicia to leverage from a “comparative advantage” (lots of cheap electricity). This fabric is rooted and nestled in the local and rural Galician world (240 of 314 municipalities according to the EU) that to date has only been considered an accessible, permanent and safe source of renewable resources (hydraulic before, and wind power now) for the production of electricity but has hardly profited from it.