How wind power is driving deforestation in Amazon.

What does the balsam wood cutting in the Amazon region of Ecuador have to do with European wind power? A distorted relationship between the two has led to a global demand for precious wood species grown in the world’s largest rainforest. As Europe and China accelerate the construction of wind turbines, balsam trees are being cut down to accelerate energy transfer.

In the Ecuadorian Indigenous Amazon region, people began to notice a growing demand for balsam wood from 2018 onwards. Balsa is very flexible but at the same time strong, and offers a simple but durable alternative to long-term wind power production. Conventional wind turbine knives are now up to 80 meters long, and the new generation can reach up to 100 meters. This means that 150 cubic meters of wood is needed to build a room, according to the United States National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

Ecuador is the world’s largest exporter of figs, accounting for 75% of the world’s market. Key players include Planantal SN, which is designed to grow balsam wood for export of about 10,000 acres. Since 2018, this company and many other international orders have struggled to grow demand.

This increase is directly related to the deforestation of the Amazon. Informal and illegal deforestation has exacerbated the problem of deforestation in the Amazon Islands and along rivers. The impact on the indigenous people, such as minerals, oil, and rubber, has been devastating.

The 2019 construction of a highway through the Shur people to connect the western city of Puez with the Pastaza River in the state of Pastaza, which borders Peru, has sparked controversy. The Ahuwar people recognized the road as an infrastructure and did not contribute to the development of their communities but to deforestation. But the project went ahead without permission and the road was completed in November 2019.

Thousands of miles away, European Commission President Ursula von der Lyon spoke to an audience in Brussels about the EU’s grand green negotiation to tackle climate change. Von der Leyen presented the plan with these words: “The European Green Agreement is Europe’s new development strategy. Reduces emissions by creating job opportunities and improving our quality of life. We need investment for that. Invest in research, innovation, green technologies. To address this, we will present a sustainable European investment plan that will support one trillion euros investment over the next decade.

An island in the Pastaza River overlooking Sharamentsa Ecuador.Francesco Badia and Dalmases

Renewable energy is very cheap to produce, and the support of Western governments has increased the installation of wind turbines in Europe. The same thing has happened in China, which is trying to increase its share of the renewable energy mix. A.D. In December 2020, President Xi Jinping announced that by 2030, China’s 243 GW wind and solar capacity will increase by more than 1,200.

Wind turbines have caused balsa wood fever, with devastating consequences for Ecuadorian indigenous communities. In September of this year, general deforestation of balsam trees in the Achilles region was clearly visible on the Pastaza River, and the logos were moved to neighboring Peru. Despite rising prices, the loggers continued their march to Pastaza in large canoes to clear the Coppaza.

In June, Ahuwar leaders began to speak. “Even if you cut balsam to make no investment, you will not be able to remove it and it will not be sold,” he said on his Facebook page. The city. “This is an urgent call for us to understand the seriousness of this problem in neighboring countries such as Peru. The elders are creating divisions among the brothers.

Sharamentsa is a solar-powered canoe project that is a community of energy. She was willing to open her islands to herders, but the local leader was forced to sell balsam to the community, creating a rift between them and the family.

Deforestation can have devastating effects on the islands and rivers. The bushes chase after alcohol, drugs, and prostitution, and pollute production facilities with plastic, cans, machines, gasoline, and oil. They leave the chains of used chains and eat the tortoises and chase the birds that eat the flowers of parrots, toucans and other balsam trees. Illegal deforestation can have a devastating effect on the balance of plants and animals, leading to the destruction of the ecosystem.

Fuel containers dumped on the Sharamentsa landing strip.
Fuel containers dumped on the Sharamentsa landing strip.Francesco Badia and Dalmases

Amazon defenders have called on the wind turbine industry to take stronger measures to identify the origin of wood used in turbine and to prevent market pressure leading to deforestation. Finally, balsam wood should be replaced with other materials.

In the absence of high demand and supply, the price increase is already encouraging the industry to look for alternative materials. Balm prices have doubled from mid-2019 to mid-2020. Economist. In 2019, Ecuador’s balsa exports were almost € 195 million, 30% more than the previous record in 2015. In the first 11 months of 2020, this jumped € 696 million.

Wind turbine knives are mainly made of polymetharyngeal foam (PMI) foam, bass wood and polytetrafluoroethylene foam (PET) foam. A typical design is used for the cargo compartment near the center of the lattice, and the balloon is used when the PVC foam is near the edge. However, the need to build longer and lighter knives as well as ensure a reliable supply chain is growing. PET, a low-density foam derived from plastic bottles, is a substitute. The Danish company has been using LM WindPower PET since 2017. “Today we use PET foam with a blade of more than 80 meters,” said Paul Dansrew, the company’s material engineer, 60% of which will be reused.

Siemens-Gamesa, a Spanish-German company, is one of the world’s largest wind turbine manufacturers. In Ecuador, they produce a razor blade at a 10,000-mile[10,000 km]balsam plant at the Ria Blades de Vago factory in Portugal. Large companies such as PET used to promote blade design, and soon other competitors followed. Wood McKenzie, a consulting firm, predicts that this will “increase by more than 55% in 2018 by 20%, but the demand for balsam will remain stable.”

Recycling and Impact on the State

Aerial view of wind turbines at Bix Camp, Tarragona, Spain.
Aerial view of wind turbines at Bix Camp, Tarragona, Spain.Jordi Monserrat

They also have difficulty getting the knives to be reused. The first generation wind turbines are nearing the end of their lives, and thousands will have to dismantle them. “85 to 90% of the total wind turbines can now be reused,” said Ramon Gonzalez-Drigo, a professor of structural engineering at Catalonia Polytechnic University. But the knives represent a challenge because of their composite materials, because recycling requires very special processes. Manufacturing wind turbine knives requires technical solutions that are sustainable, economically viable, responsible, and compatible with the circular economy model.

The social and environmental impact of wind farms does not end with deforestation in the Amazon Basin but extends to countries where it eventually operates. These sparsely populated communities are characterized by persistent winds and low levels of population dispersal.

Matarana, in the province of Teruel, Spain, is home to a number of short-term wind power projects. Spain has pledged to increase wind power production, which currently covers 21.9% of the country’s electricity. When it comes to multi-million euro projects that affect plants, wildlife, the landscape and social harmony, the local people feel powerless. “We have a debate between the importance of wind farms and the need to protect the territory, the landscape. This is not a good match,” said Edward Susanna, an olive oil producer.

Aerial view of the Baix Camp wind farm from Calaceite in the Spanish region.
Aerial view of the Baix Camp wind farm from Calaceite in the Spanish region. Christina Juliana

Esperanza Miravete, a geography and history teacher in Valjunera, with a population of 338 in Matrarana, criticized the state’s “severe attack” on wind power companies. “No one is protecting the landscape, and nothing can stop a natural park or industrial project here,” she said.

Wind turbines are a major part of the energy transformation within the framework of the European Green Agreement, but balsam wood production and the addition of large wind turbines in rural areas pose a challenge to diverse ecosystems and host communities.

Power transfer creates a green paradox, and wind power companies must give a clear answer to this question. Europeans have a right to know how clean their knees are when they turn on the heater this winter.

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