The Solar Project
The project relates to Lote 5 of the solar energy auctions of Portugal 2020. This connection to grid in the municipality of Tavira, was won by renewables company Iberdrola S.A. and is refered to officially as CENTRAL FOTOVOLTAICA de ESTOI.
The Solar Project is called CENTRAL FOTOVOLTAICA DE ESTOI and is for a photovoltaic power station with a capacity of 69 MVA with 14 MVA of battery storage, totalling 84 MVA.
The IBERDROLA S.A. project proposes to occupy an area of around 154 hectares and with 175,800 photovoltaic panels. The location of the panels would be near SANTA CATARINA DA FONTE DO BISPO, sited on either side of the N398 road, covering various areas between CERRO DO LEIRIA, BARROCAIS, PEREIRO and PERAL.
The 150 kV power Lines would have an estimated length of about 6.5 km, distributed over 21 supports and would take the power to the substation in ESTOI.
PROBAAL feels very strongly that a solar power plant in this location would be unsuitable because of the impacts it would have on, ecology, land, people and water.
We also believe that the information supplied by Iberdrola S.A. in support of the scheme is inaccurate and misleading.
This land is unique and biodiverse, full of a wide range of animal and plant species, including endangered ones (several plant species on Portugal’s Red List). An area of 154 hectares of this landscape includes several thousand trees.
Clearing this land of its plants and the natural rock formations would be damaging to the ecology of this area. Once cleared and flattened, this ancient boulder-field could never be re-made, even if the panels were to be removed in three decades time.
The majority of the land is part of the National Ecological Reserve (REN). Despite the definitions applicable to this land, as an area for the protection and recharging of aquifers, area of maximum filtration, and the fact that vegetation is not normally allowed to be removed from this land – it could in theory be used for a solar project. This is of grave concern to PROBAAL.
Another concern is the degradation of topsoil that occurs when land is cleared and is blown away by the wind.
Human & Cultural impacts:
These lands are the long-standing hunting grounds for the local hunting community and they have a right to continue their traditional activities here.
Cyclists, walkers and tourists from around the world, enjoy the area for its leisure potential and natural beauty. Tourism is a hugely important source of income in this area.
A solar power plant would not directly benefit this community. A very low number of jobs would be generated for local people, nature would be needlessly destroyed, and the water-table put at risk
The Peral-Moncarapacho aquifer lies directly under this area, and any widescale clearing of the land and it’s temporary water lines, would disrupt the function of the aquifer and risk leaving the 44 square kilometers area it occupies without sufficient underground water.
Solar panels do not cover the ground or prevent rain falling there – but it is the effect of clearing and levelling the land, that would lead the rain to leave the land more quickly, without as much opportunity to rest on the uneven surfaces and soak into the aquifer. Much rainwater could be lost to the rivers and sea too early or cause flooding to the South.
In January, the National Laboratory of Energy and Geology indicated that 12% of mainland Portugal would be suitable for solar and wind energy. New mapping has shrunk these areas to 3%
The rented land includes an area of between 47-63 hectares in size, which is owned by a subsidiary of Tecnovia, namely Transportes Rodrigo Costa e Filho S.A. We understand that they have agreed to rent this land to Iberdrola for the solar project and may themselves be given some of the construction works at the site.
PROBAAL is familiar with this land, because the association was originally formed in the year 2000, to protect it from illegal mining, and again a decade later.
Iberdrola meets Tavira Council – 2021
In May of 2021 two Iberdrola representatives met with President Ana Paula Martins of Tavira council to discuss the solar project.
In June, Iberdrola circulated a promotional document to the elected members of Tavira council.
The logos of Iberdrola and Tavira Camara can be seen side by side on each page of the paperwork.
The documents contain statements that could be considered misleading and refers to studies that appear irrelevant, regarding the potential environmental impact of the project at Cerro do Leiria.