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Not On My Mountain! Greece's Struggle to Adopt Solar

I recently returned from the Hellenic Republic (Ελληνική Δημοκρατία) better known as Greece. Like any good Greek, I spent the majority of my vacation discussing politics, philosophy and phycology and the like, with my family. The mix of European Union (EU) politics coupled with the feelings of the Greek people always leaves an impression on me.

One of the greatest challenges that communities across Greece have face for over a decade is arson and the general prevalence of fire during the summer months. From July through August there is very little rain and often not even a cloud in the sky. Everything becomes very dry and it is hot. Fires start easily on the mountains where a reflection from glass or metal on a roof top can start the hill ablaze. Arsonists take advantage of this because once a hill is cleared of trees that are protected from development people then start building houses, often still illegally or through not honest means. This rapid development is not viewed favorably by the majority of the population but like many things there has been a lack of political will to stop the practices (this is common due to a mindset established by 400 years of oppression, genocide, two world wars and a civil war). However, because of the abuses of land many Greeks have become very protective of their mountains, especially since they are the main view from many houses.

The need to protect natural space and the majestic mountains that surround most villages is at the core of opposition to the adoption of solar energy. But by 2020 to be in compliance with EU standards, Greece has to produce more then a third of its energy from renewable sources. Currently Greece only has 9% renewable energy production and about 5% of that currently comes from hydroelectric plants that present other challenges. Thus Greece needs to rapidly modernize its' energy production.

Currently on the table is a project to establish a €250 million (approximately $350 million) photovoltaic panel field on the mountains of a small city in southern Greece called Megalopolis, making it the largest solar project in the world.

The city is currently home to lignite coal power plants that make the city generally less desirable and can seriously damage the respiratory health of inhabitants. Despite this the residents of the city have been fairly opposed to new solar panels which would clean up the air and stop the mining of lignite.

Firstly, there has been little positive PR about the benefits of solar panels and rumors take off like the fires in the mountains. People have worried that the solar panels will increase the temperature to 60 degrees Celsius or other horrible heights. They are also worried that the solar panels will work like mirrors to create fires (solar panels don't focus light when they refract the sun). But even with misinformation the biggest opposition comes from the fact that no one wants their mountains changes. In a sense the fight is between environmental protection initiatives. However, will sea level visibly on the rise and showing signs on the Greek coastline, reducing CO2 emissions is a necessity. Sacrificing a tree may have to be worth it.

mountain photo.jpg

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Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs
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