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Indigenous groups halt solar projects, but contractors persist

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Yucatan state officials in 2019 cut the ribbon on a solar farm in San Ignacio.

Indigenous residents of Cuncunul and Valladolid sued and won when they acted to prevent solar-energy farms from being built.

But JinkoSolar Investment Pte. Ltd., the Chinese company tasked with building numerous Yucatán Solar Park projects, is not going away.

A judge ruled in favor of the area’s Maya community leaders who said they were not consulted and fully informed prior to the installation of the solar farm. Despite the ruling, the company is not giving up its efforts.

“As in other parts of the country, these types of projects are a government imposition, in collaboration with national and foreign companies,” Candelaria May, a member of the Assembly of Defenders of the Múuch ’Xíinbal Territory, told Diálogo Chino.

“We are concerned about the impact on the environment, the people who live here [and] drastic changes in the local economy as the price of goods and land rises,” he added.

Jinkosolar Investment Pte. Ltd, an arm of Chinese panel manufacturer JinkoSolar Holding Company, Ltd, won three contracts to provide 180 megawatts of energy to the CFE in Yucatán and to the state of Jalisco in a 2016 auction. Eventually authorized in 2017, the Yucatán Solar Park was set to operate from September 2018 for 30 years, 15 of which are covered by a fixed-term power sale agreement with CFE. The project is now halted.

The Yucatán solar farm was set to have 313,140 modules over an area of about 250 hectares. The sunny area has a high potential for solar energy.

In November 2016, the corporation requested a public consultation with the local indigenous and non-indigenous population and the Ministry of the Environment, Semarnat. Yet no such meeting took place, at least not with indigenous peoples.

JinkoSolar’s own environmental assessment in October 2016 indicated its project would have 15 beneficial and 83 adverse impacts, mainly the deforestation of 206 hectares, destroying endangered native trees including the glassywood (astronium graveolens) and zamia loddigessi or palmita.

The ocelot and the Tamandula anteater, both at risk of extinction, would lose habitat.

But the company proposed to create a wildlife rescue program for protected species and to set aside 45 hectares for conservation.

JinkoSolar is trying to keep the project alive as a private venture that does not depend on a contract with the CFE power utility, reports Diálogo Chino.

JinkoSolar was also under contract to install another two solar-panel parks in Ticul and a wind farm in Tizimín.

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