A wind power project in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in the state of Oaxaca is generating more anger than electricity.
Highways have been closed and municipal headquarters seized in the dispute over a wind farm proposed by Energía Eólicas del Sur (EES) in Juchitán, whose residents are divided.
Supporters want construction to begin immediately, but opponents warn of the potential for abuses and unfulfilled promises.
EES’ new wind park, first announced at the beginning of last year, would consist of 132 turbines and occupy 5,332 hectares of land in a windy region that produces 90% of Mexico’s total wind energy.
Dissent in the local population is not new, but for the first time in nearly 20 years of wind energy projects, companies are now required to seek public approval under Convention 169 of the International Labour Organization.
The 14.5-billion-peso (US $972 million) project has strong support from Institutional Revolutionary Party member organizations such as the Mexican Workers’ Confederation (CTM) and the National Confederation of Popular Organizations (CNOP).
Those groups joined citizens in favor of the works to close four highway access points and occupy city hall recently.
According to Mayor Saúl Vicente Vázquez of a coalition government of the Democratic Revolution Party and the National Action Party, EES is behind those actions.
The project is a resurrection of another of the same scale but planned for San Dionisio del Mar. Mareña Renovables was an international project with funding from Macquarie Group, Mitsubishi Corporation and the Inter-American Development Bank, among others, and its chief customer was to be Coca-Cola bottler Femsa.
But local opposition defeated the project, whose cancellation was announced early last year.
The new version has some of the same players but new locations, one of them being Juchitán, which is about 50 kilometers from San Dionisio.
ESS says the wind farm will generate 3,500 direct and indirect jobs and pay 27.7 million pesos to the city for a construction and land-use change permit. Jorge Sánchez, president of a landowners’ committee, says EES would also create an energy trust, contributing 5 million pesos annually toward residents’ and the municipality’s energy costs.
But the Popular Assembly of the People of Juchitán cites abuses and contracts that have not been honored by other wind farm companies, which in one case promised educational opportunities and jobs for youth that never materialized.
Another concern is over the rent paid by wind farms to the ejidos, or communal farms. In the case of EES the company is offering 800 pesos per hectare per month. That is rather higher than the 150 pesos other wind farms have been known to pay, an amount that is 10-20 times less than what landowners in the U.S. receive in wind farm rents.
For some it’s an ill wind that blows in the Isthmus. For others it represents opportunities for economic development.