Wind energy development in Cantabria, Spain. Methodological approach, environmental, technological and social issues
The different stages in the planning of wind power development and the pre-assessment of suitability of the territory in the province of Cantabria are described. The methodological approach used is explained. This approach included three main steps: a general environmental assessment of the whole province to identify potentially suitable areas on the basis of environmental criteria; a second, more detailed assessment of those areas using additional analyses and environmental criteria; an assessment of potential visual effects based on both measurable parameters and visual perception. Emphasis is placed on visual analysis and impact issues. Criteria and parameters used and technological simulation tools developed for the assessment of visual impacts and mitigation measures are discussed and results obtained shown. A description is also presented of political and social reactions to wind energy development plans. The results of the study indicate that the 1400 MW planned would be possible without important environmental effects, if wind farms are restricted to the 2% of the province identified as potentially suitable. Also, that simulation tools developed make it possible to rapidly and reliably represent and assess potential visual modifications. These tools can thus be used not only for expert’s assessment, but also as a means to facilitate social participation in the planning process.