In the north of Hérault, justice demands the dismantling of a wind turbine field

A few kilometers north of Lodève, the Escandorgue massif is one of the southernmost in the Massif Central

In the north of Hérault, justice demands the dismantling of a wind turbine field

A few kilometers north of Lodève, the Escandorgue massif is one of the southernmost in the Massif Central. No big towns, a few small villages and, from its ridge line which rises to 850 meters, a splendid view of the surrounding limestone plateaus and valleys. Also in perspective is a significant number of wind farms that have been installed over the last two decades. In 2017, there were already six parks, or 51 wind turbines, on this massif, which has very good winds on its ridges.

Life continued as it did and the territory remained best known for two things: its hiking trails and the Lérab Ling Buddhist temple, in Roqueredonde, founded in 1991 and which had become an important center of Buddhism in Europe. But, since December 7, the massif has found itself at the heart of a legal decision watched very closely by all wind turbine installers in France: the Nîmes Court of Appeal ordered that day the dismantling of the seven wind turbines de Bernagues, in the town of Lunas. Destruction decided to preserve biodiversity and in particular the golden eagles which nest on the massif. This is a first in France, which could therefore set a precedent.

The case is a real legal soap opera with, on one side a company, Valeco, parent company of ERL, Energies Renewables du Languedoc, which operates its wind turbines despite three cancellations of the building permit in twenty years, and on the other a collective of associations which never gave up, continuing the procedures.

But the presence of the golden eagle on the Escandorgue changed the situation. Many migratory birds already fly over this massif, located between the Massif Central and the Pyrenees and, in recent years, a pair of golden eagles have settled there. The problem then becomes determining who was there first: the wind turbine builder or the golden eagle?

“At the heart of the eagles’ home range”

For the mayor of Lunas, Aurélien Manenc (Socialist Party), who believes that the wind turbines are an indisputable step forward for the territory, the eagle arrived in the massif after the first impact studies which, at the beginning of the 2000s, did not barely mention the raptor. For scientists, the problem is a little more complex: “Even before the first recourses, estimates naturalist Alain Ravayrol, we had alerted the state to the use of ridge lines, appreciated by both wind turbine installers and by birds. »

Christian Itty, from the French Office for Biodiversity, agrees: “Lunas Park is at the heart of the eagles’ home range. The birds came to land there before the construction of the wind turbines because from the ridge, they have a bird's eye view over the entire southern slope of the massif. “In the environmental studies of the various park projects at that time on the massif,” continues the association’s lawyer, Olivier Gourbinot, “all say they do not notice the presence of the eagle in the area of ​​their project. As if the eagle was everywhere except in the wind project areas. »