Parque Eolico Matafongo vs Villa Fundacion: Los Abanicos y los Apagones.
Updated: Jul 14
When the wheels of renewable energy turn but you are left in the dark...
In the outskirts of Villa Fundacion, a small town of about 9,000 people settled in the1700's, sits a 17-turbine onshore wind farm known as Matafongo Wind Farm or El Parque Eolico Matafongo. Villa Fundacion was established officially as a town in 1991 in the province of Peravia and belongs to the larger city of Bani. It's inhabitants are a mixed population descending from Spanish, African and Indigenous people who formed settlements around cattle herds and sugar-mills in the region. Their economy is mostly agricultural products such as mangos, onions, bananas/plantains, and other products as well as has a large percentage of dependency on remittances from those who has emigrated to the United States and elsewhere.
The land around Villa Fundacion is arid and hot and sits adjacent to a bay known as Ocoa Bay or Bahia de Ocoa and near the Caribbean's largest sand dunes- Las Dunas de Bani. These coastal conditions and its hilly terrain made it an ideal location for the production of renewable energy in the form of onshore wind.
Matafongo Wind Farm opened in 2019 and was developed initially by Grupo Eolico Dominicano in partnership with Spanish company Genera Avante. It consist of 17 wind turbines with 90 meter high towers and has an active capacity of 34 MW but a potential expanded capacity of up to 50 MW. It was financed by Banco Popular and Banco Del Progreso for an estimated total cost of around $70 million USD. It is currently owned and operated by InterEnergy Holdings. Matafongo Wind Farm is estimated to offset 30,000 tons of carbon dioxide (C02) emissions per year from the atmosphere and has the capacity to supply electricity in the form of clean energy to 30,000 households. The energy produced is sold to the Corporacion Dominicana de Empresas Electricas Estatales (CDEEE) through a 20-year power purchase agreement and connects to the energy grid through 11km of transmission lines. Vesta Wind Systems was the contracted turbine suppliers.
Clean energy in the form of wind power has become a leading industry in the renewable energy sector with many projects around the world going into effect-- New York State has committed to investing several millions of dollars to not only build out offshore wind projects along the Atlantic Ocean but to invest in the workforce and infrastructure needed to support this industry. It is estimated that 1 MW of wind energy can power 1,000 households. When this wind farm project was announced for Bani, there was a lot of community excitement- especially for a community and country that suffers severely from power shortages and outages that dramatically affect the quality of life of its inhabitants. We recalled earlier wind farms such as Los Cocos in Barahona and we watched with great enthusiasm as huge trucks destroyed our streets as they transported the parts of the turbines to the project site and watched in awe as the "big fans" came to stand. They have added to the picturesque landscape of our coast and created a sense of hope that brighter, cleaner days were to come--- however, that sense of hope was false.
As I sit in my community of Villa Fundacion, I hear all around me never-ending complaints about the electricity and witness how my community suffers at the lack of power. My mind instantly goes to Matafongo-- where is this power going? Why is this project despite being in our backyard not benefiting in anyway our community?
Matafongo does not supply electricity to Villa Fundacion-- or any adjacent community. It supplies energy to the grid that is rumored to supply energy to the next city over of Azua. No honest community engagement was conducted to inform community residents about the project, its impact to their land and community and how they could benefit from this project. This project is fenced off from our community with no access points. The developers and owners/operators of this project have made no effort to provide any community benefits yet alone any communication about this project that is meaningful to the local community.
For successful and meaningful community engagement, the owners/operators of this wind farm should have created a transparent and consistent communication channel with the local authorities, provided electricity to the community (a community of less than 9,000 households possibly closer to the 5,000), supported the community in some financial way (sponsorship during local annual festivities or stipends), create an educational program to inform all ages about wind energy and its positive impact on the environment including site visits, and developed a workforce for this community to learn about the different jobs in the wind energy industry--- training and paying community members to be the stewards of this project and work in its maintenance.
Villa Fundacion has been cheated out of an enormous opportunity-- one anchored in a green economy and the future. We have been misinformed and treated unjustly as neighbors and community members of this project. We must sit in the dark (literally) watching the wheels turn on the onshore wind farm that is Matafongo and watch as that energy does not reach us. The community has had to build its own understanding of what this project is and what it means in the larger scope of things due to lack of communication and engagement. We continue to struggle with employing our youth and long for economic development opportunities that could employ our people in good paying jobs. We lack proper education around climate change and carbon emissions yet see everyday how clean energy is produced to offset these same emissions.
I urge my community of Villa Fundacion to stand together as we so often do for the development of our community and to call on the Matafongo Wind Farm operators to sit down at our table and develop solutions with us. Our youth is missing out on opportunities to learn and build future wind farms because we have been left in the dark. We cannot build a brighter, cleaner future when we ignore local community...that is environmental injustice.
Villa Fundacion,Bani is the hometown of my father and my family is one of the founding members of this community. It was built by local families who have continued to organize and develop their community with their own means.