Dignity, sustainability, peripheries: wind farm development in Southern Catalonia
Jaume Franquesa (University at Buffalo-SUNY)
Paper short abstract:
Based on ethnographic research on wind farm development in Southern Catalonia, the central aim of the paper is to question and complicate the common assumption that renewable energy sources represent a stark break with other forms of energy production.
Paper long abstract:
Throughout the last decade, Spain has become one of the main producers of wind energy in Europe, in a process that has been progressively dominated by large corporations and a strong intervention from the state. Although justified by the need to achieve both (global) environmental and (national) economic sustainability, wind farms pose challenges to the social and economic viability of the areas where they are placed. This paper analyzes this process in one such area, Southern Catalonia, an impoverished agricultural area where the opposition to wind farm development has been articulated through the notion of dignity. The peripheral position of Southern Catalonia is connected to the fact that it has historically been a main area of energy production: hydroelectric dams, nuclear power plants, and more recently wind farms, scattered throughout the territory, are witness to the changes in the political economy of energy production in Spain during the last 50 years. Thus, while wind farms may in a future bring the dismantling of other forms of energy production such as nuclear power plants, the presence of wind farms in Southern Catalonia responds to the presence of nuclear power plants, not to their displacement, and local residents fear they may contribute to further peripheralize the area and threaten their livelihoods.
Uncertain futures: the cultural dynamics of energy transition