Wind farms, areas that include a wall of wind turbines generating electricity, could spoil both the scenery and the habitats of indigenous wildlife on a beautiful peninsula in the southeastern Peloponnese at Cape Maleas. Part of the Greek government’s ambitious plan to arrive at climate neutrality in 2030, 25 turbine licenses have been approved, with 170 turbines expected to be installed.
The green energy campaign, including the installation of the wind turbine farms, is facing a public outcry from the municipality, local groups and environmentalist organizations across the nation.
Climate neutrality, also known as carbon neutrality, refers to the idea of zero greenhouse gas emissions, by balancing those emissions so they are equal or less than the emissions that are removed through the planet’s natural absorption.
More than 30 environmental groups are petitioning to stop the licensing of wind farms at Cape Maleas. The groups are calling attention to the licensing on June 5, World Environment Day, according to the the UN General Assembly.
The theme for World Environment Day in 2021 is “Ecosystem Restoration.”
Wind turbines could change landscape of Cape Maleas
The wind farm “will dramatically change the beautiful landscape of Cape Maleas, as this will have significant and irreversible effects on the biodiversity of the region.
In total, “more than 170 wind turbines have already received a production license south of Monemvasia, extending to the very edge of the Cape,” according to a statement signed by the groups Alcyone, Αnima, Αrion, Αrxelon, Action for Wildlife, Hellenic Society for Environment and Culture, Hellenic Nature Protection Society, the Hellenic Ornithological Society, ISEA, Κalisto, Medina, ΜΟM, Pindos Enviromental, Toulipa Goulimi and Friends of Nature.
“As a day dedicated for the protection of the environment, we are asking for everyone’s support to save our legendary Cape Maleas,” said Maria Aroni, a resident of the region who volunteers her time saving threatened wild animals.
“This is an area in the heart of mainland Greece, forgotten by the State that fought to preserve its natural environment, its wild landscape and its historical memory,” said Aroni.
The area is endowed with rich fauna, birdlife, migrating birds and rare endemic plants, according to the volunteer.
The project is not sanctioned by the Monemvasia municipality. At their most recent city council meeting, officials objected to the central government’s development plan.
At the crux of the argument is the choice between clean air or uninterrupted natural habitats for man and animal. The wind turbine farms will provide for cleaner air that we all breathe but also jeopardize the natural terrestrial environment of the human and the animal life of the area, in proximity to the giant blades, or sails.
“The entire project leaves no room for the development and protection of this unique place, turning this pure and wild land into an industrial zone,” said Giannis Psarrakis, Toulipa Goulimi Association Secretary and Environmental Officer.
The Toulipa Goulimi Association promotes and protects the natural and cultural heritage of Laconia. Toulipi Goulimi takes its name from a rare tulip, indigenous to the area.
“Biodiversity loss and climate change are two equally important global crises that act synergistically and endanger the future of humanity,” stated Apostolis Kaltsis, who has conducted the research for the Hellenic Ornithological Society. “Biodiversity, which includes all natural ecosystems, is recognized as the most important shield against climate change as it contributes significantly to tackling it and mitigating its effects.”
Kaltsis said “The policies implemented by Greece to tackle climate change should not at the same time undermine the conservation of the country’s valuable biodiversity as Greece is one of the centers, with the richest biodiversity in the world.”
The public process for the environmental impact studies for two wind farms with a total of 31 wind turbines to be installed in the peninsula of Cape Maleas in Monemvasia is now under way. The deadline for the public consultation for the wind farm in the position “Kritina” was May 28 and “Agia Kyriaki” it is June 8.
Locals Try to Save Cape Maleas
According to Aroni, “The special ecological importance of the area is highlighted in a recent study by the University of Ioannina, which proposed the zones as investment-free, precisely because of its high ecological value and low fragmentation.
“The installation of huge wind farms and the opening of new access roads, that accompany these works, will dramatically alter the landscape of Cape Maleas, forcibly removing the myth that surrounds it,” Aroni added. The hashtag #savemaleas is being used to create awareness by local groups.
Environment and Energy Minister Costas Skrekas is at the helm of the ambitious national strategy for energy and climate. Thursday he described his decision for a speedy withdrawal of coal power plants at an online roundtable on Circular Economy sponsored by the American Hellenic Chamber of Commerce.
“All public power company plants will cease burning lignite to produce energy by 2023, except for one, to be converted to producing energy with natural gas by 2025,” he stated.
“We don’t have the right as citizens of the world to not be prepared for the next crisis facing the planet, the climate crisis due to climate change,” Skrekas said.
“Greece had found itself one step ahead in reviewing the way we had previously dealt with the environment, but also the consumption and production of electricity,” the Minister stated.
In a May speech he gave to Parliament he noted “The main culprit for carbon dioxide emissions is the production of electricity from coal. For every megawatt hour of electricity produced from lignite, 1.2-1.4 tons of carbon dioxide are emitted into the atmosphere by public power lignite plants, with a huge impact on the environment.
“Electricity generation is responsible for about 32 percent of overall carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere,” Skrekas added.
“To achieve an additional reduction of carbon dioxide emissions from electricity generation and electricity consumption, we plan for greater penetration of Renewable Energy Sources in our system,” he declared.
Initially the target for using Renewable Energy Resources was 61 percent. Today the forecast is for 67 percent. “That is why we are simplifying, in principle, even more licensing,” he added.
One of the youngest members elected to the Greek parliament in 2012, Skrekas was installed in January to head the Ministry of Environment and Energy. He noted that public power plants are failing. Operation costs are $120 but electricity is being sold wholesale at $80.
Ellaktor, one of the applicants for the licensing of the wind turbines, has announced that an investment plan foreseeing the construction and the operation of two new wind farms of a total installed capacity of 88.2 MW is underway.
“The impact assessment studies of both wind farms are almost identical and are characterized by significant deficiencies and arbitrary estimates,” said Kaltsis, concerning “Kritina” and “Agia Kyriaki.”
Kaltsis stated “They provocatively ignore a number of published scientific data that demonstrate the enormous ecological value of the area, mainly as a breeding ground for endangered predators, such as Aquila fasciata, and as a migratory corridor for a very large number of birds species, but also as a habitat for dozens of unique and endemic species of flora.”
The largest infrastructure construction, renewable energy and real estate development company in Greece is the combination of several companies. The group operates in 30 countries and reported a turnover of $100 million in 2020.
EU Aims At Zero Emissions for 2025
The EU aims to be climate-neutral by 2050 – an economy with net-zero greenhouse gas emissions. This objective is at the heart of the European Green Deal and in line with the EU’s commitment to global climate action under the Paris Accord.
Shifting towards the use of renewable energy such as hydro, wind, geothermal, and solar power, as well as nuclear power reduces greenhouse gas emissions. Although both renewable and non-renewable energy production produce carbon emissions in some form, renewable sources produce negligible to almost zero carbon emissions.
“The development of Renewable Energy Sources needs to be achieved with respect for biodiversity and the landscape, with an emphasis on small, domestic applications and their location in already fragmented areas, giving priority to those close to artificial surfaces and roads,” Kaltsis said.
“Unfortunately, the licensing of hundreds of wind turbines on the basis of shallow and inaccurate studies rises inexorably in an area with an important historical background, widely sung by Homer, Strabo and other ancient as well as modern writers.
“The area is referenced by Homer in “The Odyssey,” according to Psarrakis, Rhapsody III (286-290)
“And he emerged from the dark seas with his rapid ships to the mount of Maleas. At the end of his horrible sea journey, Zeus prepared his thunder with whistling winds. Howling with huge waves, rising from the wild sea, equal to the mountain.”
Monemvasia is a town and a municipality in Laconia, Greece. The town is located on a small island off the east coast of the Peloponnese. The island is linked to the mainland by a 650-foot causeway. Its area consists mostly of a large plateau 300 feet above sea level – which is one thousand feet wide and a half mile long. It was once the site of a powerful medieval fortress.
The town walls and many Byzantine churches remain from the medieval period. The seat of the municipality is the town Molo. The town’s name derives from two Greek words, mono and emvasia, meaning “single entrance,” Monemvasia’s nickname is the “Gibraltar of the East” or “The Rock.”
In 1971, Monemvasia became linked with the rest of the outside world through a bridge on the western side that connects to a national road.
In more recent history, the town has seen a resurgence in importance with increasing numbers of tourists visiting the site and the region. The medieval buildings have been restored, and many of them have been converted to hotels.