The expansion of wind farms in Colombia’s far north is troubling indigenous peoples of the Wayu in the semi-desert region designated as El Dorado, a renewable energy hub.
The leftist new president Gustavo Petro’s government aims to make La Guajira the “green energy capital of the world” but some locals say they are being exploited and left behind.
They lack electricity and drinking water.
As part of a wider energy transition plan, where solar and wind power represent eight percent of the country’s supply, two wind farms have recently been built on this Caribbean peninsula.
Wind power today accounts for 0.1 percent of Colombia’s power generation, with hydroelectric power at 68.3 percent and thermal power at 30.7 percent.
But the government plans to change this with 57 new wind farms – a total of 3,000 turbines – to be built over the next 10 years at a cost of more than $15 billion.
La Guajira is the ancestral state of the Wayu, and about 600 communities here will be affected by the wind farm project, according to research institute Indepaz.
According to the research team, the Wayu people are being forced to surrender their land through “tricky” and “irregular” agreements.
And what’s more, “not a single kilowatt of La Guajira’s production is visible,” said Joanna Barney, an Indepaz researcher.
There are also outright harassments.
Goat farmer Moise Jusayu said he filed a criminal complaint seen by AFP after he was attacked with a machete in his village near the Windpesi construction site in 2018.
He said he refused to sell part of his family plot to EDPR and NL Energy companies.
His daughter Elba, under pressure from the companies – who gave money to her uncle – caused a family feud in which a family member was killed and Moise fled with his family.
On his return, his brother appointed him chief and authorized the construction of a wind turbine.
ENL told AFP that none of its workers had harmed any member of the Wayuu community, while EDP did not respond to a request for comment.
Starting in early 2022, ISAGEN – a subsidiary of the Canadian company Brookfield – will have 14 turbines operating in one of the two La Guajira wind farms in the rapidly changing landscape.
“We wake up when we see our new neighbors. It’s amazing because we’ve always grown up surrounded by gardens,” said Luis Iguaran, a teacher in Lansalia, the only community with electricity.
“Animals can’t fit in,” he said, since the turbines came.
Indepaz saw a 50 percent reduction in the number of goats in the park’s first five months.
ISAGEN has conducted “preliminary consultations” with local residents and has agreed to finance “productive projects” in exchange for land use for 30 years, Indepaz’s Barney said. AFP.
It includes installing solar panels in Lanshalia and providing 20,000 liters of drinking water per month.
According to Iguaran, this was not enough for the ten families living there.
The company said. AFP It has met the terms of the agreement approved by the local environmental protection authority.
But Iguarran said he wished he had better advice that would allow him to negotiate “better conditions.”
“On paper they [the conditions] It seems generous: ENEL offers one billion [Colombian pesos] per year” — or US$220,000, Barney said.
But there are 19 communities in the affected region with 40 to 80 people each, which is an investment of about $12 per month.
By Juan Sebastian Serrano, AFP