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Analysis

Mareña Renovables: A Warning to Project Developers

Wed, 02/19/2014 - 10:30

The Mexican wind industry has had to learn some harsh lessons from social and community issues that have arisen from projects being developed in the region of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. When a wind resource is identified, land rights are needed to develop and build a project. The existence of ejidos and communal land ownership, dealing properly with communities has become an important a critical success factor for wind projects. Particularly, the poster child illustrating such difficulties is the Mareña Renovables wind farm. This 396MW project in Oaxaca was meant to become the largest wind park in Latin America. However, local communities went into an uproar, going as far as blockading roads to stop construction from going ahead. The main issue raised by the community is that they signed a contract based on what they felt was incomplete information. News reports said that the developers increased the planned number of turbines without the consent of the community. This project was funded by the Inter-American Development Bank, Macquarie and several other banks with FEMSA set to participate as an off-taker. The wind turbines have already been delivered and are sitting in the port of Salina Cruz, waiting for installation. But the locals have kept up their resistance, claiming irregularities and the violation of the rights of the communities of San Dionisio del Mar, San Mateo del Mar and San Francisco del Mar, among other indigenous localities.

The use of land has been a matter of great importance for many years in Mexico with companies growing increasingly aware of the consequences of not negotiating adequately with communities. The continued stalling of Mareña Renovables puts millions of investment dollars at risk. The wind industry has learned a lesson from this experience however. Negotiation know-how with ejidatarios and communities is widely needed by companies that are planning on developing a project. Several developers have come up with their own strategies to form longterm ties to the communities they work with. Mareña Renovables, having now been frozen for well over a year, has become a key incident in the Mexican renewable energy landscape, having somewhat halted the hype of wind energy projects. Companies are becoming more cautious when developing a project that involves dealing with local communities. This is not limited to wind but to every project with any potential social or environmental impact