or “The largest green island in the world” ?
(as one of the companies given approval to build some of the 1,000 wind turbines across Crete is promoting this project!)
The Greek Government has given approval for two wind power projects for Crete to Terna Energy for a total capacity of 1,077 MW and to Elica Group for 1,005 MW, a total for the two of more than 2,000 MW. In addition to that, approval was also given for the installation for a 70 MW solar thermal power station in Lasithi, in eastern Crete. Even using latest technology turbines of 2 MW the approval for the wind power project translates to more than 1,000 wind turbines across Crete!
The pending approval has been known for a few months by the locals in Crete who have been complaining about non consultation and getting ready for an all out war against the magnitude of the proposed wind power installations. Their complaints relate to the lack of consultation, the size of the project, about where the wind turbines might be installed and the potential damage to the environment.
Before discussing the merits of the opposing arguments, a look at one of the existing wind turbine sites will give us some idea of the potential impact on the environment. Elica Group, one of the two companies given the approval, has been operating 23 wind turbines at two locations, of total nominal power of some 19 MW (average unit power of 850KW). Pictures of the impact to the mountain top environment by the installation of 17 wind turbines outside Heraklion can be seen here:
The European Union has adopted a target of 20% renewable energy by 2020 and part of this target will be met by increased wind and solar power generation. The European commissioner for Energy Günther Oettinger, in an interview to Der Spiegel in discussing the problems that Germany faced with its policy change relating to nuclear power suggested that Europeans need stop thinking about state borders and coordinate their activities on renewable energy across borders. What he meant was that those that can produce renewable power in excess of their 20% target should contribute to the common EU group target.
Greece, in line with this thinking, and given its level of sunshine and plenty of suitable sites for wind power generation is currently planning to significantly expand these two areas of renewable power generation. Greece has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the EU to install over a 4 year period enough capacity to generate 10,000 MW electricity for export to EU countries at a cost of 19 billion euro (Project Helios).
Greece’s targets in late 2010, as set out in this policy paper (Page 11) were for 2,200 MW for solar generation and 7,500 MW for wind generation. Obviously following EU pressure, and as part of the “financial rescue” process, these targets were changed to provide for renewable energy outside Greece’s borders.
A presentation on the Helios project can be seen at this link.
As you will see the presentation states that the sites to be selected for solar power generation must be outside protected areas (Natura 2000 and Ramsar, see page 12) and on non arable land. A mechanism for value sharing (what would Greece get out of it) is still to be established (see pages 25 and 27).
Similar document regarding wind power generation I have been unable to find but at an interview the chairman of the Greek Scientific Company for Wind Power (Lobby front for the industry, see: http://www.eletaen.gr/company ), stated that Greece had received applications for establishing wind power units that would generate some 70,000 MW of electricity although the state’s target was 7,500 MW (see above reference to the 2010 target). He then commented on the large number of the applied permits saying that in practice only about 15-20% of applications usually come to fruition. Given the four and a half times escalation of the target with solar power from 2010 to today, it is not unreasonable to expect a fivefold increase to the target from 7,500 MW to something like 35,000 MW, requiring some 15,000 to 20,000 wind turbines to be installed in Greece, and mostly in its southern areas, if one was to look at the map on page 18 of the Helios presentation.
Other issues covered in the discussion and relevant comments are:
- Wind farms contribute positively to local tourism, becoming a new tourist attraction for visitors. I thought that this was rather silly! There is that much more to see in Crete, who would want to look at wind generators’ wings going round and round!
- Would create permanent work opportunities (he estimated one job per one MW), some from the manufacturing of parts of the units that will be done in Greece and in general that it will generate employment opportunities in support services to these activities. Sure, but how many of these jobs would go to Greeks rather than to existing employees of the foreign manufacturers of those wind turbines? And what would the impact be on jobs from the change of land use?
- Land ownership problems, uncertainty of land ownership and traditional land use were glossed over.
- The visual impact on the environment, the impact of cutting new roads leading to high elevation locations and how the existing legislation would protect the environment were not addressed satisfactorily.
You can see the interview and discussion, in Greek only, here
There was a positive impact that was not addressed at the above discussion and this is that the new energy sources will be able to replace some of the old, dirty, oil fired electricity generators on Crete. Whether this will provide cheaper electricity for the local economy remains to be seen. Some of the newer oil fired generators will need to be converted to gas to be brought to Crete as Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) to handle supply shortfalls.
This is a very complex issue that cannot be satisfactorily addressed in a short article, suitable for a blog. This is just an outline of the issues and hopefully, if there is interest, we could further discuss it here. But without an MOU, similar to that of Helios, and consultation with the locals this proposal continues to a big threat to the local environment.
The locals need information and assurances that will clarify the following matters:
- What the overall number of wind turbines to be installed will be.
- At what locations would these be installed, certainty that Natura 2000 areas will not be affected and consultation regarding new road openings to ensure a minimum damage to the environment.
- Value sharing agreements between owners and operators, the Greek state and the locals (Municipalities and individuals that may be affected).
- Power of veto to Municipalities if agreement on issues outlined above cannot be achieved.
Until these issues are clarified and agreed the people of Crete are justifiably very concerned. And so am I; I love the high mountains of Crete and I would hate to see all that beauty destroyed by the thoughtless introduction of green energy.
A similar message about concerns on environmental impact is given in a video relating to another pristine area, in Northern Greece, that is currently being threatened by the installation of a number of wind farms. The voice over is in Greek, but you will understand the message quite easily.