An existing solar energy park at the heart of Malaga province. / SUR

The Junta is assessing 170 solar energy projects in Malaga province

Most applications are for photovoltaic parks with or without transmission lines, but some of the proposed projects are also for wind farms

V. MELGAR / A. JIMÉNEZ / A. J. GUERRERO MALAGA.

The Junta de Andalucía is currently assessing a total of 63 projects for solar parks in Malaga province, according to the regional government's representative for Sustainable Development in the area. These include eight wind parks, one transmission line for the energy produced, and the rest consist of solar panels, either alone or with transmission lines or infrastructure.

The central government has delegated the responsibility for assessing these projects to the Junta if their output does not exceed 50 megawatts (MW), but if it does the application has to be made directly to Madrid.

In the first case, it is simpler, which is why many who want to build these solar parks are dividing them into smaller sections so they can apply to the Junta. The final go-ahead has to be given by the government, but prior approval of the environmental impact report is essential.

So far, the Andalusian government has evaluated 107 projects for which approval will either be given or rejected, by the Junta at this stage or by the government. These additional 63 mean there are currently 170 solar energy parks planned in the province.

Councils and other groups have raised the alarm and called for help in the face of this avalanche of projects. They are opposed to the size of the proposed solar parks because of their environmental, social and economic consequences.

The same is happening elsewhere in Andalucía, encouraged by the arrival of EU funds to finance this type of project, and because of the hours of sunshine in the region. Town halls say they have received a huge number of enquiries from people who want to know whether their land would be suitable for the installations.

The councils' hands are practically tied, however. All they can do is indicate whether constructions of this type are permissible under the Urban Plan or not. Many councils have demanded the right to decide for themselves where solar parks can be located, have encouraged local residents to officially oppose the projects and want to modify their Urban Plans to limit these installations. People have also held protests and collected signatures on petitions, and are still making their opposition to the projects clear.

Viability

Of the projects currently being assessed by the Junta, 14 solar parks are planned in Antequera, one of which will be shared with Mollina, another with Casabermeja and one with Campillos, Álora and Valle de Abdalajís; seven are planned in Teba; four in Archidona and Cañete La Real (in the latter, one is shared with Cuevas del Becerro and Ronda and the other with Almargen), Humilladero (one with Mollina and Fuente de Piedra) and Ronda.

There are also three projects planned in Casarabonela and Casares; two in Malaga (one with Almogía and Cártama); two in Gaucín; two in Cártama, with Coín, Alhaurín El Grande and Alhaurín de la Torre; and one each in Almargen, Alhaurín de la Torre, Almogía and Nerja, as well as another in the offing in Coín, Alozaina, Monda, Guaro, Ojén and Marbella.

The Junta is also studying the environmental impact report for a transmission line in Teba and Campillos and five wind parks in Manilva (three shared with Casares and one with San Roque), Casabermeja, Antequera and Álora.

Due to the concentration in certain areas, some locations would not be viable for this equipment to be installed, mainly because of the effect on flora and fauna and protected areas and habitats.

Nowadays, wind energy production has become more developed in Malaga province, with 25 parks producing 628 MW of electricity. The Andalusian Energy Agency says this output will eventually reach 211.5 MW.

Opposition

For all the reasons above, many people in the province are against the proliferation of renewable energy projects. In the Serranía de Ronda there are no solar parks as yet, but Eduardo Sánchez, of the Platform of those Affected by Photovoltaic Projects in Ronda and the Serranía, says developers are pushing for three huge solar megaparks, and people have already lodged official objections.

"They would start to the north of Ronda and cross the Genal valley," he says, and also points out that there is a project to build an electrical substation in Ronda in order to improve the railway line between Bobadilla and Algeciras, and in his opinion this is what has attracted so many projects: they would need to transmit the energy they produce.

"The shortest transmission line will be about 28 kilometres long, with 89 pylons," he says. He has asked Ronda council, which says there are about 30 applications on the table, to oppose the substation project.

In the Guadalhorce valley, the residents' platforms say applications for projects continue to come in. They are particularly critical of the new RePowerEU route map which they say will turn Spain into "an energy colony for rich countries in northern Europe". They are also dismayed at the new Land Law of Andalucía which removes protections from land which cannot be built on.

"This could be done differently. We are totally in favour of renewable energies, but this needs to be reorganised," says Marisa Casal, the spokeswoman for the Río Grande Natural Valley Association, which began in Coín but now includes other platforms in Malaga and other Andalusian provinces.

In Antequera, the Cartaojal Sin Parques Fotovoltaicos group is also on the warpath over the seven projects that would isolate this outlying district. It would end up surrounded by a sea of solar panels covering the same area as 1,000 football pitches, says José Ángel López.