• Investment plan of €75.5m to provide energy equivalent of 110,000 homes

By Andrew Atkinson

Plans for solar plants to be constructed in Torremendo, Orihuela, contravene the protection of Escalona.

Projects to build two photovoltaic plants affect the Protected Landscape of Sierra Escalona and its surrounding area – occupying 310 hectares.

127 hectares are within a protection perimeter, where regional legislation prohibits this type of facility, announced in August 2020.

The two plants are under the Atitlan Group, the investment fund of Roberto Centeno, son-in-law of Juan Roig, president of Mercadona of which they ensure the two projects add an investment of €75.5m to provide energy equivalent of 110,000 homes.

Amigos de Sierra Escalona (ASE) has announced that it will respect what is established in article 10 of Decree-Law 14/2020 of the Consell, which excludes from this type of facilities in the perimeter of 500 metres around the landscape protected from Escalona.

A protection perimeter, ASE warns, that makes the entire Bibey plant totally unviable, assuming the unprecedented destruction of well-preserved crops of the Sierra del Cristo.

Also part of the Itel plant in the headwaters of the Rambla de la Alcorisa, where preserved crops are would also be destroyed.

ASE said of the projects: “It is an unnecessarily sacrifice of valuable territory for biodiversity and the landscape of the Escalona, el Cristo and Pujálvarez area.”

Bibey Desarrollo Empresarial would extend over 127 hectares of the Sierra del Cristo in Torremendo – with 118.00 solar panels.

The planned investment is 25.3 million euros. Its installed power is 58.8 megawatts. The plant would be located between the mountainside and the CV-949 regional road, which connects Torremendo with Torreagüera in the Murcia region, from the La Pedrera reservoir.

The project, and the layout of the plates only affects the cultivation of almond trees and circumvents the intensive irrigation of citrus.

The second of the facilities, Itel Investment, proposes to occupy 182 hectares of land, compared to the first proposal at Lo Cartagena where up to 242,000 modules will be installed, with 120 megawatts and an investment of €50 million.

Lo Cartagena, an area in exploitation of citrus, was once the candidate area to host the macro-landfill of the region. The two plants of the same investment fund will share the infrastructure to connect to the grid through the Torremendo substation, built in the shadow of Sierra Escalona, built to improve the energy supply of the desalination plant of Torrevieja.