Giants and windmills

When being a visionary makes you fight for what you believe in

Mills in the Paradela wind farm.
Mills in the Paradela wind farm.

I have intimate knowledge of all the homes in Paradela and I can visit each one of them. In most of them I will be made very welcome and in a few they will put on a more serious face. But I have known them all since the 1980s. I was an official of the Ministry of Agriculture and, as a result of the agreement for a Common Agricultural Policy, I had to visit all the residents to make a list of the farms in the municipality. I spent whole nights working and researching, because many did not know how much land they had.

They had inherited it but had not completed the proper legal processes. In a few cases the friction was such that families would not even meet to clarify who owned what. It was a very complex task.

In 2002, however, when Endesa arrived in Paradela to participate in the development of wind energy in the municipality, my relationship with many residents took a turn for the worse. I fully understood the benefits that the construction of wind farms could generate for the people of Paradela, but about 20% of the residents did not see it so clearly. It was very difficult. I even received threats.

There was growing unrest as the rumours spread. They said that the mills were going to spread radiation that would leave the cows sterile, that when the blades rotated they would produce ice that would break off and fall on the cattle and humans, causing damage to public health, etc.

I had a very hard time because they made me feel like I was working against the interests of my neighbours, whom I have been representing as mayor since I was 24 years old. I am now 67.

David Carnero Osio working on his cattle farm in Precebo located in Acevedo.
David Carnero Osio working on his cattle farm in Precebo located in Acevedo.
On the left, David Carnero Osio working on his cattle farm in Precebo located in Acevedo; on the right, Mari Fe Reñadoiro preparing her cows to be milked at her SC Milk Farm.
On the left, David Carnero Osio working on his cattle farm in Precebo located in Acevedo; on the right, Mari Fe Reñadoiro preparing her cows to be milked at her SC Milk Farm.

Local support

Just because 20% of the residents demonstrated against Endesa's wind projects in Paradela this did not mean that the remaining 80% were in favour. Most of them simply did not participate in the dynamics of preventing the construction of the two wind farms (Paradela and Serra de las Penas), but in time they ended up supporting them.

"Don't believe what they are saying out there," he warned them and encouraged them to take a coach tour and go and visit wind farms. This is how the rumours were seen to be completely untrue. And that is how it happened, little by little.

In 2007, it started to be possible to begin negotiations with a few of the residents. But as landholders in Galicia are predominantly smallholders, the project needed the support of about 200 owners of some 500 farms. And this happened with the passage of time.

Darío López Rodríguez and Purificación Rodríguez Fernández visiting their bull in one of their plots of land to see how it was developing after being injected.
Darío López Rodríguez y Purificación Rodríguez Fernández visitan a su toro en uno de sus terrenos para ver la evolución del mismo tras ser infiltrado.

The owners were changing their minds and, ten years later, in 2017, work finally got underway. The residents were still angry, but the problem was now rather different; now what they were interested in was installing the wind turbines on their land.

I kept going throughout the crisis. Some neighbours thought that, as mayor, it would be me who chose which owners would benefit from the construction of the wind farms, so he explained: "The technicians are the ones who see where there is the best wind, so they are the ones who decide the location of the machines."

 

Change of perspective

Direct economic benefits have largely been the major factor in this dispute, but this was not the only reason why residents changed their perspective. They stopped spreading rumours and started wanting to be involved in the project because they saw that there were considerable advantages.

Both the owners of the farms where the 27 mills are located and those who have provided passage for the underground ducts charge annual rents or receive a single payment, but what motivated them most was to see that many inaccessible lands that had been practically abandoned, had become first class pastures.

“Many inaccessible lands that had been practically abandoned had become first class pastures”.
On the left, Marisa and her mother Padrón with their dogs in a meadow on their cattle farm, Rubia Gallega, in Rañodoiro, Castro del Rey, Paradela. On the right, Marisa working in her vegetable garden in Rañodoiro.
On the left, Marisa and her mother Padrón with their dogs in a meadow on their cattle farm, Rubia Gallega, in Rañodoiro, Castro del Rey, Paradela. On the right, Marisa working in her vegetable garden in Rañodoiro.

This was due to the 12-metre-wide tracks, built to transport the wind farm machinery. These tracks made it easier for owners to access their farms, consisting of plots that previously either had no access or were very difficult to reach.

All this transformation in the area would not have been possible without first being able to identify who owned the land. I started in the 1980s, then I took it up again when they decided to build the wind farms, and Endesa finished it in recent years, so now each of the properties has been legalised. The expropriations have in fact been testimonial (a couple of cases) because we did everything we could, not only to locate the heirs but also to reach agreement with them.

A flock of sheep grazing next to the Paradela wind farm.
A flock of sheep grazing next to the Paradela wind farm.

Social work

I mediated between more than 50 families who, due to a bad relationship, had not legally distributed their inheritances. I managed to get parents and children who were not speaking to each other to reach an understanding about the lands, go together to the notary and register the deeds.

So one thing led to another. They went from being inaccessible, unproductive lands without deeds, to being an asset. Many owners took the opportunity to sell them to neighbours who were raising livestock, our most important economic engine. So everyone benefited.

For those who sold the land, it stopped being a burden because, even they no longer lived in Paradela, they had to take care of it to avoid fires. For those who bought them and increased the amount of land they owned, their businesses developed. In fact, the balance was very positive: no activity was closed down as a result of the wind farms. Quite the reverse. Existing activity was improved. 

The wind farms had a positive impact on the farms: 7,000 head of cattle, a few pig farms, and a number of sheep and goat farms. There is now excellent production and storage of forage, with wheat and rye also being cultivated again.

“The wind farms had a positive impact on the farms: 7,000 head of cattle, a few pig farms, and a number of sheep and goat farms”.
Nightfall in Paradela.
Nightfall in Paradela.

In any case, it is not easy to convince people in the rural environment. If before the reservoir, Paradela had more than 4,000 residents, today there are 1,800. If more than 300 children went to our school, today there are only 62 primary school students. What we are saying is that, although wind farms have not attracted active population, they have helped to consolidate the livestock farming activity. This means that the people of Paradela now see that they have a future. There are farms that are going to grow even more than they have already grown.

“Wind farms have not attracted active population, but, by helping to consolidate livestock farms, they have made the residents of Paradela see that they now have a future”.

And all this in an atmosphere of general consensus, and for the better, which has resulted in residents now enjoying an excellent relationship. "How right were you!" they now acknowledged. 

 

José Manuel Mato Díaz

Mayor of Paradela.

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