Elsa Ceglia and Guillermo Gómez bought a house on the outskirts of Ronda (Málaga, 33,624 inhabitants) in 2019. They invested all their savings in the house, which they want to serve as a life project for their children. Nature surrounds you, but when you open your window in the future you may see thousands of solar panels. “When I found out, the sky fell on me,” says Ceglia. Its environment is one of those chosen by the many companies that have planned some twenty photovoltaic energy macroprojects in the Ronda region. For now they are just drawings on a map, but their possible impact on the landscape has generated a long debate in the city. The conversations have one point in common: the lack of information. So much so that a survey shows that only 16% of residents in the area say they are very or fairly informed, while 44% have not heard of the projects and 40% have no information. Furthermore, 80% believe that the city councils should negotiate the installation so that the opinion of the citizens is taken into account. Yours.
The questionnaire – carried out to 500 people residing in the Serranía de Ronda during the month of October by Demoscopia – has been commissioned by the Ronda2030 association, which brings together twenty local businessmen. The results indicate that citizens feel distanced from making decisions that affect their closest environment. And that he believes that the administrations —from the City Council to the Junta de Andalucía, the central government or Europe— resolve delicate situations like this without taking into account those who live in the territories. The survey also indicates that the main moods of citizens regarding the projects are lack of information (66%), doubts about the project (30%) and concern (21%). Those who are more informed show more rejection of solar parks and 62% believe that the natural environment is damaged. 54% believe that the planned facilities respond to private interests and disregard local concerns.
“There is an information vacuum that increases the risk of misinformation,” says Juan José Clavero, president of Ronda2030, an entity that aligns with most of the survey results. Like the one that reveals that three out of four people support renewable energy, but protecting the most sensitive areas. “Planning is needed that today is non-existent,” explains Clavero. “We support renewables, but with proposals that are sized and adapted to the territory,” adds Raquel Elia, who manages, together with her partner, Friedrich Schatz, a small winery of natural wines and organic farming. By chance they learned that her vineyard could be traversed by high voltage cables and that a large electrical tower could be installed 400 meters from her house. They led the creation of the association Salvemos Campos y Montes de la Serranía de Ronda because they soon understood that, like them, there were many other people who were unaware of the business plans and investment funds for their environment. “Everything is being very dark: There are people who have already been expropriated and they have only found out from the BOE,” he denounces.
It is enough to take a walk through the commercial environment of Ronda to see a mountainous landscape, with meadows, holm oaks and vineyards and verify that the majority of residents have heard a certain buzz about solar energy parks, but little else. “The negative part is clear: they will modify the landscape. I don’t know if there are positive aspects, because there is no information. Nobody counts anything”, reveals Javier Quirón, 30 years old. The footprint in the territory, 95% protected, is what worries the most because it is what sustains the local economy thanks to tourism and agriculture. “No one knows what is happening. It is impossible to have a formed opinion because nobody has informed them”, insists Benito Gómez, chef with two Michelin stars at his Bardal restaurant and vice president of Ronda2030. The survey shows that 68% of the citizenry calls for a referendum to decide on the projects.
Opacity and misinformation
What affects the most is what happens closer. To not miss anything, subscribe.
Few dare to say how many parks have been submitted to the administration for approval, which companies have done so, or how much territory they will occupy, although it is assumed that they will be thousands of hectares and 300 high-voltage towers are estimated. There is only one map made by a volunteer ecologist. It bears the name of La ruta de la placa and shows large spots throughout the Ronda mountains —and in the rest of Andalusia— on the land that, a priori, would go to the solar parks. The territorial delegate for Sustainable Development of the Junta de Andalucía, José Antonio Víquez, spoke this summer of 60 throughout Malaga. In the Ronda region, the Ronda2030 association has located 23 projects, but they do not rule out that there are more. “Those already planned surround the entire city, totally breaking up the landscape. And there are some especially wild ones, like those around the Roman site of Acinipo,” insists Andrea Chabant, whose family owns a cereal and olive farm on the outskirts of Ronda through which 13 50-meter-high electrical towers would pass. The situation is similar in many other areas of Andalusia.
There are municipalities, such as Cuevas del Becerro, that have presented up to 400 allegations to the projects, but since Ronda2030 they assure that the Ronda City Council is not being transparent with its neighbors. “Everything is being very opaque”, emphasizes Flavio Salesi, one of the promoters of the Descalzos Viejos winery. Municipal sources assure that the intention is “to be as restrictive as possible to avoid the implementation of photovoltaic megaparks in the territory”, but they do not explain how they will do it beyond presenting allegations. “The problem is that we don’t know anything, because this is a brick bubble where land is sold to the highest bidder,” says Manuel Aguilar, a volunteer with the Alianza Energía y Territorio (Aliente) platform. “We are going to be the pile of Europe, but at what price: destroying protected areas and encouraging depopulation”, highlights Aguilar.
The Andalusian Parliament accepted for processing a municipal legislative initiative supported by 72 Andalusian municipalities that called for respect for protected areas and planning for renewables “before they invade the entire territory,” according to Aguilar. The Governing Council of the Junta de Andalucía later decided not to debate it. The administration has already rejected several parks and ensures that if any go ahead it will have passed “exhaustive and rigorous” filters in relation to environmental impact. In Ronda they doubt words and, although the regional administration has already rejected a good part of the projects presented by the companies, they believe that there is still a long way to go to ensure that their territory is truly protected.
Subscribe to continue reading
Read without limits