Member/Partner News

Alcarrás, the ecological transition from responsibility



In the past year, we have clearly seen how climate change has caught up with us. What we thought would happen in 15 years is already here. We need to move quickly in decarbonization, but we must do it right.

The State Meteorological Agency (Aemet) has confirmed that last April was the warmest and driest since records began. Average temperatures have been around 14.9ºC, which means they have been 3ºC above the average (1991-2020) for this time of year. In this context, there are territories that are turning this necessity into an opportunity: the president of Extremadura stated that photovoltaic energy has made his region a protagonist of the green industrial revolution of the 21st century.

Photovoltaic energy as a key element of decarbonization policies, as a factor of economic growth, especially in rural Spain, and its installations on land as a factor of biodiversity conservation, are three vectors that summarize the disruptive power of our technology, specifically its application on land.

A few years ago, the disruptive nature of another of our applications, self-consumption, generated opposition from actors who considered themselves affected by this disruption, and today there are also other opponents who, in the name of a defense of the landscape, or arrogating the representation of the entirety of the rural world, oppose the installation of plants on the ground.

There is a desire to give a false image of opposition between the rural world and solar energy which is incorrect. In any case, we would be talking about a series of collectives with competitive economic interests, such as real estate, tourism, wineries or hunters, who compete for land use. Interests that are undoubtedly also legitimate, but which usually hide behind a mask of landscape defense.

To these groups are added political parties that see in their opposition a possible niche for votes, people with anti-capitalist approaches who, regardless of the need to move as quickly as possible in the fight against the climate emergency, believe that investments in this sector should be carried out by cooperatives or individual citizens, when strangely they do not consider this for any other sector of the economy. Or groups that call themselves environmentalists, concerned only about the transformation of the landscape, without considering that the greatest transformation of the landscape is already being produced by climate change.

All of these groups can be described as neo-denialists, as the consequences of their actions have the same result as those of traditional denialists.

But the imperative need to move as quickly as possible in the ecological transition or that the criticisms are mostly unjustified does not mean that solar energy projects on land should be carried out inappropriately.

From the very beginning, when starting this phase of photovoltaic development, we understood the responsibility we assumed for the loan that society was making to us of a small part of territory (all the PNIEC photovoltaic requires less than 0.2% of the Spanish agricultural territory) but no less significant.

With this idea, we developed guidelines agreed upon with the five major environmental groups, which as a suggestion oriented the design of the plants so that they themselves became integral reserves of biodiversity, as well as a socio-economic opportunity for their areas of implementation. These suggestions have evolved into what are now our Certificates of Excellence. The fact of being unanimously approved by our associates allows us to say that we are a sector that wants to do things well, better said, excellently.

A concern of our sector is the long periods of administrative processing, and for this reason, a few months ago, we presented a document to the Ministry with suggestions to rationalize it. In the thirty pages of the document, there is not a single line that talks about the elimination of environmental requirements. A good Environmental Impact Study, properly evaluated, is the best guarantee society has that things are being done right against irresponsible demands for moratoriums, under the deceitful slogan of "renewable energy yes, but not like this". This slogan reminds me of another from the nuclear sector: "nuclear today, solar tomorrow", what they really mean is they don't want renewables.

In the current debate, there is a lot of misinformation and our technology is widely attributed to problems of others. But today, no moderately informed person dares to claim that we are a threat to biodiversity. The function of our association is to provide rigorous information about the realities of our technology so that politicians, journalists, and society as a whole can make the decisions they consider appropriate.

But it would not be correct to finish these notes without some self-criticism. It is true that there have been inappropriate behaviors on the part of certain companies, either by not communicating the project appropriately and transparently to both the local government and the local population, or by abusing the formula of Declaration of Public Utility. Behaviors that we want to eradicate.

We would like the press to also reflect the people and municipalities that are happy with the installation of solar plants in their territories, especially those for whom photovoltaic energy has become their hope for the future. When will there be a report on the natural life inside a photovoltaic plant?

The film "Alcarrás" has positioned it as an example of the conflicts between the rural environment and solar energy, but it is just a movie and as such a work of fiction. The fact that they use non-professional actors in it leads many people to confuse it with a documentary. But the reality is very different. It is true that two photovoltaic plants are being developed in Alcarrás, but they are not on peach fields, but on lands that have been used as pig manure dumps, and that belong to a single owner.

What is no longer fiction, but enters the realm of science fiction, is the fact that in Catalonia they authorized a photovoltaic plant in a peach field.

We are a sector that assumes to work from the necessary responsibility, but at this moment it is very important that the rest of the actors involved in the ecological transition process, politicians, environmental associations, citizens and media also assume their responsibility.