Where Dalí Once Painted the Sea, Wind Turbines Are Set to Rise

PORT LLIGAT, Spain – Moises Tibau climbs aboard his small wooden boat at dawn, setting off from a crag in front of the house, where Salvador Dalí has ​​composed a number of floating Surrealist paintings his most famous.

Mr. Tibau, one of only two fishermen left in this part of a Mediterranean town, about 100 miles north of Barcelona, ​​was hoping to land a catch of lobster, langoustine and scorpion fish. But as he slowly made his way into another deserted bay, Mr. Tibau was preoccupied with the threat of modernization lurking.

Government officials are set to approve the construction of a giant floating wind farm just offshore, and international energy companies have embarked on harnessing the volatile northern winds in the region. called la Tramontana.

The blow comes like a death summer heat wave get worse by climate change is threatening to break temperature records in the UK and spark wildfires in France, Spain, Portugal and Greece.

Dozens of turbines could soon be on the horizon, supplying urgently needed renewable energy to Catalonia, a part of Spain that is still heavily dependent on fossil fuels, but has fundamentally changed its character. The way of an area has changed little from the time when Dalí walked. hills.

The controversial project on the coast of Spain is emblematic of an ongoing push across Europe as officials rush to reduce planet-warming emissions by phasing out fossil fuels and rapidly build utility-scale renewable energy projects. The war in Ukraine has added urgency to the effort, as European policymakers try to break away from their dependence on Russian oil and gas.

However, from the coast of Spain to the rivers of Albania, efforts to launch large wind, solar and hydroelectric projects are facing obstacles including NIMBYism, concerns Environmental issues and bureaucracy impede swift action.

Complicating matters is the fact that large wind and solar projects require significant space – something that may be unlikely in Europe, a continent that also has thousands of years of cultural history and artifacts for competition.

The rush to mine la Tramontana has emerged as the latest flashpoint in the growing debate over where to place new renewable energy projects across Europe. Besides interrupting the views described in major works such as “The Persistence of Memory,” Residents in this peaceful corner of Spain say the offshore wind farm will also spoil the view from the Cap de Creus Natural Park, placing the giant machine near one of the largest marine reserves in Europe. Europe, preventing tourists from visiting the beautiful town of Cadaqués and forever disrupting their way of life.

“As a local, I am mainly interested in fishing,” said Mr. Tibau, 59, who has worked in the waters for decades and opposes the project. “But also about the cultural spirit of Cadaqués, the landscape that inspired Dalí.”

Similar stories are playing out across the continent. In the north of France, people fished with oysters last year Fire flares and block a boat is working on the installation of one of the country’s first offshore wind farms, and in Sweden, against a plan Build wind farms in a pristine wilderness area.

Greek Islanders are conducting violent protests against a large wind farm that locals say will destroy old-growth forests and disrupt tourism, while in Italy a complicated licensing process is hinder ability companies to build wind projects in approved places.

Elsewhere in Spain, residents oppose the plan for a giant solar plant in Andalusia that they say will disrupt a sensitive archaeological site. And in Eastern Europe, activists recently won a big victory when the Albanian government agree not to build dams on the Vjosa River for hydroelectricity.

“Despite the high consensus that change needs to be made, if you talk to people, they just don’t want a site,” said Viktor Katona, energy analyst at Kpler, a research firm. wind farm next to them. “NIMBYism is definitely there, but it’s also about the fear of the unknown, and it’s about a way of life.”

The the vast majority Europeans, including those in and around Port Lligat, support ambitious efforts to boost renewable energy.

“The first time I saw it, I was very supportive,” said Josep Lloret, a renowned marine biologist who teaches at the nearby University of Girona. “We need solutions to mitigate climate change.”

But when Mr. Lloret went through the details and started looking at the impacts on the ecosystem, he got bored with the project.

“This is one of the most important areas of the Mediterranean Sea,” he said, noting that the European Union recently designated much of the vicinity as a marine reserve and there is a bird sanctuary near it. there on the beach. “It’s a biodiversity hotspot.”

Other scientists are also concerned about the proposed wind farm. In a corner of a fish market in the nearby town of El Port de la Selva, Patricia Baena and Claudia Traboni, two marine biologists working for the Spanish government, are recovering a soft coral that often gets caught in fishing nets. fish.

They say that while fishing in the area has an effect on the coral, known as gorgonian, the effect of the wind farm could be worse, as the large underwater cables that anchor the turbines to the seafloor stir up silt and disrupt fragile ecosystems. below the waves.

“They are like trees in the forest,” said Mrs. Baena. “If they disappear, then all the biodiversity associated with them will disappear.”

Commercial fishermen also oppose the wind project, fearing that its construction and equipment, including power lines, will push valuable red shrimp farther out to sea.

Guillermo Francisco Cornejo, 46, head of the fishing association in El Port de la Selva, said that with the already high cost of fishing, wind farms could make already fragile livelihoods unsustainable. steady.

“They are raising the price of gas, raising the price of electricity, and we are trapped,” he said.

“You need to sacrifice some parts of the sea,” says marine biologist Mr. Lloret. “But you need to find the places where you’ll do the least amount of damage.”

Companies hoping to build wind farms say their projects will not have a serious impact on the environment.

“There is a climate emergency and these solutions are very important,” said Carlos Martin, chief executive officer of BlueFloat Energy, a Spanish company that plans to bid on the project later this year. important.

BlueFloat’s project will include 35 turbines, each 856 feet above the water, and produce about 500 megawatts of energy, enough to power about half of the energy needs of the local province, which has a population of about 750,000 people. Other companies are also preparing bids, some of which may involve more turbines. Government officials and companies working on the projects say the location right near Port Lligat is the best site in the region for offshore winds because Tramontana winds are very strong.

Mr. Martin said that having wind turbines floating instead of fixed on the seabed would reduce the long-term impact. And he says that while some environmental impacts are inevitable, the urgency to build new sources of clean energy outweighs such concerns.

“You can always see change as a threat. “But change can be an opportunity, and the opportunity here is great.”

As the war in Ukraine drags on, European leaders have moved to cut Russian oil and gas imports, while pledging to accelerate the rollout of new renewable energy projects.

In 2020, renewable energy represents 22.1 percent energy consumed in the European Union, compared to only 12.2 percent in U.S.A. In May, the European Commission announced plans to double the use of renewable energy by 2030.

However, with the fight to push up global energy prices, European leaders are getting started climate goals aside and focus on reducing energy costs, reverse the plan to stop burning coal and invest billions of dollars in new natural gas infrastructure.

And even as governments are racing to green-light new projects, there’s been a huge gap between what’s been approved and what’s being built because of slow licensing, protests, and protests. and environmental assessments lead to delays. According to research firm Energy Monitor across Europe, governments have approved about four times more wind power than is actually being built.

“People don’t like coal and oil, but they don’t want any other options,” said Katona, an energy analyst. “The government policy area remains chaotic and it will be difficult to find a solution.”

When Mr. Tibau went out to inspect the nets he had placed two days earlier, with a full moon still behind him at dawn, he came across a rocky peninsula that inspired the artists. Artists include Picasso, Man Ray and Marcel Duchamp. At the top of the hill is a lighthouse that was used as the setting for the 1971 Kirk Douglas film “The Light at the Edge of the World”.

Finally, he reached his buoy and brought his boat to a stop.

Working alone, Mr. Tibau hand-picked hundreds of meters of nets, tossing back protected sea cucumbers and smaller crustaceans. After half an hour of work, he had a respectable product: a large lobster, a scorpion fish, and a dozen guinea pigs.

At the end of the day, chefs from nearby restaurants will head to a shaded spot, where Mr. Tibau mends his nets and buys his morning catch for about $175.

It’s an arrangement that hasn’t changed much in half a century, when a previous generation of fishermen taught Mr. Tibau how to work the small waters.

“If Dalí were still alive today,” said Mr Tibau, “he would be able to end this project.”

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