Connect to share and comment

Spain's northern coast pioneers wave energy

But that isn't good news for everyone in Arminza, where residents recall when nuclear power nearly came to town.

Arminza, population 600, used to be a fishing village. Though only a few people still fish for a living, sport and leisure fishing remains popular. Fishermen fear the platform will reduce access to an area rich in crab, hake and conger eel. Environmental studies concluded the platform will have no impact on sea life, according to EVE, but the platform area will be off-limits for fishermen. “Fishermen argue small cuttlefish concentrate in the platform area, but cuttlefish banks move,” said Jose Ramon Epelde, EVE’s director of communication.

Fishermen greeted my questions with angry grimaces. One rushed by as he muttered, “I’m a fisherman, don’t make me talk, I’d rather not talk.”

Another factor in the minds of many of the older Arminza residents is the abandoned Lemoniz nuclear station, located about a mile down the road.

In the 1970s and early 80s, residents vented their fierce opposition to a government-planned nuclear station in Lemoniz by mounting large street demonstrations. ETA, the self-proclaimed defender of the Basque land — listed as a terrorist organization by Spain and the European Union — waged a bloody battle against the nuclear station, killing three workers and two engineers before forcing the project to a halt. The Spanish government eventually abandoned the plan, the station was dismantled and ETA claimed a victory, which some Basques still justify.

Since then, disagreement over a tentative proposal converting the nuclear energy station into a combined cycle steam plant continues to run high in the area. The plant in Lemoniz looms eerily over a post-nuclear ghost town. Crashing waves and seagull calls break the imposing silence of the dull cement buildings overlooking a picturesque green coast. Built but never used, this station could have one functional piece left — handily installed electrical distribution lines that could be used for the wave energy platform.

At a playground next to the harbor, two young couples were chatting as they watched over their children. When asked, they all agreed they welcomed BIMEP’s clean energy. “The biggest concern is how it’s going to affect fishing,” said one of the young men, Asier Goti.

On the wharf, walking with Martinez, a middle-age woman, who did not want to reveal her name, voiced suspicion. “What if they’re only building this wave platform to confuse people and will eventually build the steam power plant anyway?”

EVE opened a temporary information booth on the harbor last July. Naira Saiz is a young lady who greets the 20 people who come to see the exhibit of maps and video each day. Sporting a hip EVE T-shirt with a surfer on the front and short summer shorts, Saiz said she’s heard a bit of everything from visitors.

“Some people here don’t like anything new,” she observed. “They were against the nuclear station, they are against the steam power plant, and now they are against this too — don’t they watch TV at home?”