Thursday, 28 June 2012

Don QuiLesvos fighting Windmills

(wind turbines in the West of Lesvos)

How many islands does Greece have? According to Wikipedia there are between 1200 and 6000, depending on what size of landmass you start counting. Between 166 and 227 islands are inhabited; only 78 of them with more than 100 inhabitants. So my question is: why should they plan an enormous windfarm on the islands of Lesvos, Chios and Lemnos, which are famous for their nature and still not spoilt by mass tourism? Why not place such a project on an uninhabited island. By my reckoning there is a large choice of islands where probably only goats and sheep graze.

I am an advocate of green energy and I do strongly believe that wind, sun and thermal energy can contribute to the Greek economy. And I have to confess that I don’t dislike too much the huge solar panels in the area of Skalochori which turn like UFOs with the sun’s direction; I even like the flap-flap-sound of the handful of wind turbines in the Andissa area. I think that we have to make serious efforts to get rid of our dependency on oil, and nuclear energy is no option at all.

But I wonder if anyone will be happy with the 153 huge wind turbines that the Spanish firm Iberdrola wants to install in the west of Lesvos. Is that not a little too much? And imagine: 400 wind turbines on the even smaller island of Lemnos!

Lesvos Birding is voicing its concerns about this project. To create such a park, roads need to be built (requiring earth taken from the mountains) and mountain tops need to flattened to place the turbines – all of this placing protected birds in danger. Well, I wonder if there is anywhere in Greece, where installing wind turbines will not affect the habitat of birds, but I must admit that Steve Dudley of Lesvos Birding is right on many points: see his blog Lesvos Birding Proposed windmills on Lesvos.

Not only will the wind turbines be flapping on mountaintops, there will also be a pipeline going straight across the western part of the island, collecting energy from Chios and Lemnos and transporting it to the mainland. I can’t imagine that this pipeline will be as polluting or create risk of ecological disasters as happens with the oil pipelines in Russia or Africa. But the island itself will not benefit from these round sweeping windmills; it will not get any of its own energy. Whilst producing all this green energy, Lesvos has to continue to pollute with its fuel-driven electricity plant in Sarakina, while in the west a huge green energy trader may ruin the landscape and earn lots of money.

In other European countries you can buy a wind turbine yourself and you have free energy. When planning it right with a group of people you may even have a surplus of energy to sell back to an energy company. Why shouldn’t all Lesvorian households receive free or discounted energy from this investor, who – let’s be honest – will change dramatically the landscape in the west? As long as they work the turbines will be the property of the company, but once they are discarded, the turbines cease to be the company’s responsibility and will remain in the landscape (it is said that they will function for about 25 years). So, in the future, tourists will not only have to visit the Petrified Forest, but also the Discarded Windmill Forest. Above Agios Giorgos in the South, one can already admire the first discarded wind turbines.

Should there not be a law stipulating that any developer that builds must provide money to the municipality to help clear up when the building is discarded (think of all those abandoned greenhouses.)

Iberdrola is one of Spain’s leading energy companies and it ranks in the worldwide top 5 of green energy companies. They bought the leading Greek company of wind energy Rokas in 2009. It is sure that this multinational is driven by business and not the desire to save a poor country. Their projects will not provide many local jobs; not many people are needed to maintain those wind turbines. At Andissa there are already some windmills from the firm Elltech Terpandros WP SA. Between the monastery Moni Ypsilou and Sigri the Greek company PPCR has 9 wind turbines and 3 around Skalachori. That makes, together with Iberdrola, 3 companies fighting for the wind of Lesvos. PPCR also will start in the autumn with a project for thermal energy. I have no idea who owns those solar panels that seem to have shot out of the earth like mushrooms around Skalachori; but I do know that our electricity bills, just like in the rest of Greece, gets higher and higher.

I do understand that huge investments have to be made if we want to reduce oil consumption. And I do understand that the constantly growing world population that uses more and more energy makes a victim of nature. But why offer islands with nature-tourism to a foreign company so that they can earn money? Greece has so many other islands that she could better exploit: leave the bigger islands for the tourists and rent the uninhabited islands to these developers. If they find people to work on oilrigs in the sea, then for sure they will find people to maintain the turbines on uninhabited islands.

More information:
Rokas and the Gigantic Wind Farm

Here a document from Rokas; they promise to solve the energy problems on the islands and help the inhabitants with a less high bill: will this be true? They can increase the CO2 emissions, but nowhere do they speak about the impact on the landscape and its people when building such a huge park of windmills: Aegean Interconnecting Project

Big Question Mark over Iberdrola Greek investment

You’d like to comment: see the addresses below the blog on Lesvos birding

(with thanks to Mary Staples)

@ Smitaki 2012

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