Agrafa, Menalon, Saos (Feggari), Prassa, Oiti, Dirfi – these are all mountains in Greece facing the threat of being ravaged by the latest subsidized energy trend: wind farms.
Mani, Evros, Arcadia, Achaia, Macedonia – Thrace, these are regions in Greece facing the same threat.
Paros, Tinos, Kythira, Ikaria, Lesvos, Limnos, Chios, Kefalonia, Andros, Crete, 14 Greek islets in the Aegean dubbed as the “Galapagos of the Mediterranean” due to their biodiversity, and almost all of Evia island, Greece’s second largest and most diverse, are Greek islands also facing the same threat.
In less than a decade, Greece has erected thousands of wind turbines and created hundreds of wind parks devastating the country’s natural habitat, blemishing the landscape and doing away with thousands of rare bird and animal species. And all this without ever consulting local communities as is common practice in other countries.
And though Greece has failed to take action on other more urgent fronts, such as recycling and plastics, it has outdone its EU counterparts, despite being a relatively poor country, in wind power, managing in 2017 to cover 1/5 of its energy needs – the highest figure in Europe – according to Wind Energy. Greece was eighth in Europe in terms of wind farm construction in the same year.
Why? Because millions of ‘easy’ euros in EU subsidies are being handed out to investors to build renewable energy projects without terms and conditions, planning and supervision.
EU Subsidies: Feeding the Greek Wind Farm Crime
Thanks to loose spatial planning rules, sidestepping EU laws that protect the natural environment and silenced local communities, Greece is moving full speed ahead towards destroying its key revenue generator: tourism… citing the EU renewables directive and ‘respect for the environment’ as the reasons.
Blanket EU regulations that fail to take into account the uniqueness of each country, the population size, the way of life, the needs, culture and heritage have again in the past cost Greece one of its most priceless legacies: its handmade wooden boats. In 1983 the EU subsidized Greek fishermen to demolish their boats claiming the measure was taken to protect the seas and tackle over-fishing. The boats could have instead been safeguarded and subsidies gone into cultural preservation.
The same happened some 30 years ago, when the EU subsidized greenhouses: today half of Crete is swamped and haunted with abandoned hothouses.
Then came grants for photovoltaic panels: today kilometers of fields that could have otherwise produced Greek fruits, vegetables, olive oil, wines – all exportable and revenue-making – are instead “adorned” with lane after lane of ugly black units some not even in use any longer.
Next in line (and up for grabs), after the Greek mountains are the Greek seas: energy producers are now investing millions of euros in the development of floating solar parks – again courtesy of condition-free EU funding.
The EU has repeatedly proven to have double standards with regard to the best interests of its members: either turning a blind eye (take the refugee crisis, for example) or demanding harmonization (to “green targets”) while failing again to take into account the unique characteristics of each country.
It’s more than evident that a large country not active in tourism with vast unpopulated mountain areas could potentially gain from the construction of a few wind farms.
However, it makes absolutely no sense for a country of 11 million people with dozens of inhabited islands and traditional mountain villages to allow the construction of at least 5,000 wind turbines planned to go up in 2021 alone in Natura zones, areas supposedly protected under EU legislation, which is also the cornerstone of the EU’s nature and biodiversity protection policy.
At the same time, five south Aegean islands : Amorgos, Kimolos, Kythira, Sikinos and Tinos, have been listed among the 12 most threatened heritage sites in Europe, and shortlisted for the “7 Most Endangered” program of Europa Nostra and the European Investment Bank Institute for 2021. And yet, plans are underway to erect wind turbines above the traditional village of Isternia on Tinos and across all of Kythira: two islands that have been making tireless efforts to promote sustainable practices that will be able to keep local communities alive.
Blowing Greek Tourism Away?
These Greek islands and mountain villages attract some 35 million travelers each year.
These people come to Greece for the beauty of its natural landscape which does not include scary glaring red lights in the dark.
They come to Greece for its peace and quiet: which does not include the constant blaring of turbines in the wind.
They come to Greece for the fresh organic food and products and not for the dead bees, birds and fish, the sick soils and the barren lands.
The come to Greece to hike untouched mountain paths and not along violently plowed roads opened to accommodate the gigantic trucks transporting wind farm infrastructure.
They come to Greece to experience the diverse natural habitat, the rare flora and fauna, the unique therapeutic herbs and not to get “simulated” experiences which they could find elsewhere.
They come to Greece to swim in clean Greek waters, walk along welcoming Greek seashores, and indulge in fresh fish and not step in oil stains on beaches filled with rubbish.
In Greece, we know where the next wind turbines will go up. Sadly, these are the lush mountain areas that go down in fires year after year.
And the European Union knows. It’s been warned of these monster projects going up overnight in areas that are currently protected under the Natura 2000 program and with no consultation.
Last year, the Hellenic Ornithological Society, Callisto and the Hellenic Society for the Protection of Nature as well as environmental NGOs, Greenpeace Greece and WWF Greece filed a complaint with the European Commission on the blatant violation of EU law by Greek authorities, who grant licenses for the installation of industrial scale wind power plants within protected Greek Natura 2000 areas.
On Monday, the Peloponnese Tourism Organization raised its voice against a plan to erect a wind park on Mount Menalon in the Arcadia region, which is one of the last untouched by mass tourism regions in Greece, attracting in the last few years travelers seeking genuine experiences. It is also where the country’s first certified hiking trail network is located, home to the only PDO honey, main producer of the famed moschofilero wine and the historic center of the Greek Revolution.
At the same time, Greek tourism ministry officials and industry bodies have inundated us with strategy after strategy for the so-called sustainable tourism which will include linking primary production with tourism to create a new immersive product that will appeal to travelers and will offer the genuine Greece experience.
Damage has already been done with the creation of massive golf courses across the country – one being planned as we speak in an area with rare marshlands in central Greece.
I ask – as a tourism professional – in 10 years’ time, when golf courses, wind farms, and massive hotel units are constructed, what will be Greece’s key selling point? Definitely not the beauty of its tiny villages, its clean seas, its pristine beaches, its untouched mountains, the simple life.
It is time for Greek society, communities and local and national tourism stakeholders to take immediate and specific actions and not allow the construction of industrial scale wind power plants or any other form of RES infrastructure in areas that are either inhabited, of historic or environmental significance and primarily without the agreement of residents and business owners. Once constructed, there’s no going back.