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Puerto Rico: Concerns About Wind Energy Proposal

“Don Quijote felt he needed to defend himself from giants. I need to protect my family from these giants that are being installed in a densely populated area. Not only are they feet away from [our] homes but they are in fertile grounds used for agriculture,” wrote Puerto Rican blogger Raúl Colón on a post titled “Don Quijote, “Molinos”, Health Risks, & Santa Isabel” [es] this past May. A resident of Santa Isabel, a southern coastal municipality in Puerto Rico, Raúl is concerned about the health risks related to having 44 wind turbines installed near his home.

The project “Finca de Viento Santa Isabel” (Santa Isabel Wind Farm), of the San Francisco, California, company Pattern Energy, is one of several [es] multi-million dollar renewable-energy projects projected to begin production this year on the island – and once completed it will be the largest of its kind in the Caribbean. The company states on its website that it expects “to provide clean, safe and renewable energy equal to the annual power needs of about 25,000 homes.” However, as the first turbines were being raised during the last weeks of May, some of Santa Isabel's 21,000+ residents such as Raúl began having second thoughts about the project and its proximity to their homes.

Concerned activist groups such as the Frente de Rescate Agrícola (FRA) [es] (Agriculture Rescue Front) have raised awareness about Pattern Energy's Santa Isabel wind farm claiming [es] the project will have a adverse effects on the municipality's agricultural industry and its residents’ health – without the promised benefit of reduced energy costs. The Puerto Rico Farmers Association President Ramón González blasted the project, stating to the press: “What is happening in this case is troubling. They are sacrificing 3,000 acres of some of the island’s best farmland.” Several members of the FRA where arrested late last year while protesting at the site.

This is not the first time that Pattern Energy has encountered resistance from concerned citizens; a similar project in Ocotillo Wells in San Diego County, California has also met with opposition. Meanwhile, residents from Falmouth, Massachusetts have begun speaking out about how noisy turbines have affected their health, leading to the temporary shutdown of that project.

Back in Puerto Rico, residents of the municipality of Guayanilla recently reported suspicious smoke [es] emanating from the cracked soils at another wind farm development project. The troubled project [es], by Windmar Renewal Energy, has resulted in what many consider an ecological disaster [es].

Below, a humorous tour of Pattern Energy's Santa Isabel facility by Puerto Rican independent musician and artist Fernando Castro Álvarez. The video features the character of “El obrero Curet”, a worker more than happy to risk his life and well-being in the name of “progress,” and was produced as part of Fernando's audio-visual project, La Avanzada Y.

 

Thumbnail image of a wind turbine in the Isle of Lewis, taken from http://www.uhi.ac.uk/sustainable's Flickr account under CC License BY-2.0.

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