Wind energy in Oaxaca: Indians approve wind power project

Residents of a heavily Indian area have approved the installation of a huge wind power project in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in southern Mexico, the Oaxaca state government said Friday.

The proposed construction of 132 giant wind turbines is meant to generate 396 megawatts of power, but the project has raised concerns over vibrations, bird deaths and invasion of Indian lands.

The company behind the project and the Oaxaca government teamed up to offer residents an average 45 percent reduction in power costs.

State officials said Friday that the project was approved during eight months of community consultations and public hearings.

But opponents contend the consultations violated their rights as Indians. They say that supporters were transported to consultative hearings and that opponents were effectively excluded.

Rodrigo Penalosa, one of the opponents, said the government “manipulated the consultation process from the start” to assure approval.

Hundreds of wind power turbines already dot the area around the isthmus, the narrow waist of Mexico lying between the Pacific ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. Its location ensures a flow of winds.

The government says the wind farms provide cheap, clean electricity.

But opponents complain that the privately owned wind farms have ill effects on fishing and agriculture.

The newest farm, known as “Eolica del Sur,” would take up 5,332 hectares (13,175 acres) in the township of Juchitan.

Residents had blocked a previous project, arguing it did not comply with Mexico’s obligation under international law to consult Indian groups over projects in their territories.

The state government said the Eolica del Sur project was the first of 20 wind farms installed in Oaxaca to carry out such consultations, and officials pledged that any future projects would be required to do so.