photo taken by Nina on 14th October 2021 View image

Solar farms—just like regular farms—cover large swaths of land, requiring between 3.5 to 16.5 acres per MW of generating capacity. The largest solar plant in the world, the 648 MW Kamuthi facility in Tamil Nadu, India, covers ten square kilometers. But it will be dwarfed by the 3,450 MW facility under construction on China’s Tibetan Plateau, which will span 298 square kilometers when completed. Building these large plants requires fundamentally changing how the land they sit on is used, which—without careful planning—could have negative impacts on the environment and local communities that could potentially lead to conflict (Newsecuritybeat)

Santa Caterina da Fonte do Bispo is a parish in the municipality of Tavira, and the area of Cerro do Leiria lies within that.

This is a description of the Cerro do Leiria from a walker’s website https://www.walking-in-algarve.com/cerro-do-leiria/

Plants, shrubs and trees indigenous to the Barrocal dominate this thinly populated area in the traditional Algarve. This area between the sea and the low hills is also called “the orchard of the Algarve” because of the many fruit trees that do surprisingly well in the harsh local conditions. Cerro do Leiria is dominated by bizarrely shaped rock formations and offers unexpected views. The Carob, Olive, Almond and Fig trees that have survived the times are the ones that were planted by the first inhabitants of the area. They can withstand the long, hot summer because their need for water is low. Once you have conquered the hill, the other side offers a quite different vista. Small farmhouses with orange and almond groves dominate the valley of Desbarato, which you are now entering. Dogs welcome you with a fierce bark but they are harmless, merely warning their owners of passers by. There is no sound other than the birds and the wind. The way back along the foot of Cerro do Leiria, shows large fields of wild flowers in the Spring, whilst in the Summer, cistus rose battles the sun. This is a nice spot to have a picnic, rest and enjoy the calm and beauty of nature.

Not an obvious spot for a utility solar farm but that’s the spot that the third largest green energy company in the world, Iberdrola, have chosen.

No-one knows our backyards, or cares about them in the same way we do. It is up to us to protect them.

Amanda

The land is reserva ecologica, protected land, not just because of it’s natural state but because it is an aquifer, a natural underground water source that provides water for the surrounding area. The bizarrely shaped rock formations mentioned above, are where water still follows the same path as it has for many years. If that doesn’t give you enough of a picture, the area is an ancient seabed and shells are fossilised into the rocks.

Barrocal land is largely acknowledged as a botanist’s dream.

Why is this allowed?

There is a loophole that is allowing renewable energy companies to gain access to the land.

A local activist organisation Probaal https://www.probaal.org/en/colibri-wp/ have taken up the fight to expose the absolute bonkers situation that we will destroy what is left of the worlds natural land, in the name of saving the world.

I would like to say this is an isolated incident, but of course it’s not.

Before you throw your hands up and ask what’s the answer then, the answer is simple, smart siting – it really is as simple as it sounds.

Nina Dar

Solar farms—just like regular farms—cover large swaths of land, requiring between 3.5 to 16.5 acres per MW of generating capacity. The largest solar plant in the world, the 648 MW Kamuthi facility in Tamil Nadu, India, covers ten square kilometers. But it will be dwarfed by the 3,450 MW facility under construction on China’s Tibetan Plateau, which will span 298 square kilometers when completed. Building these large plants requires fundamentally changing how the land they sit on is used, which—without careful planning—could have negative impacts on the environment and local communities that could potentially lead to conflict. Source: https://www.newsecuritybeat.org/2018/10/dark-side-sun-avoiding-conflict-solar-energys-landwater-demands/

Smart solar siting policies and programs can encourage solar development on land where it has the least impact on agriculture and the environment. Approaches include siting on previously developed land (e.g. rooftops and brownfields), siting on the least productive soils on agricultural land, or “dual-use,” which integrates solar infrastructure in such a way that active agricultural production can continue on the site.

Seems to make perfect sense to me.

We recorded a podcast with Amanda from Probaal, as she took us round the Cerro do Leiria, in the trailer Amanda points out there is no white knight coming to save the planet for us, it’s down to us. https://www.buzzsprout.com/954817/9532075-trailer-for-season-3-episode-1-a-solar-farm-at-whatcost

In the full podcast, we talk about “not in my backyard” nimbyism, which Amanda feels has never been so relevant. No-one knows our backyards, or cares about them in the same way we do. It is up to us to protect them.

You can listen to the full podcast here: https://www.buzzsprout.com/954817/9525666-a-solar-farm-at-what-cost

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