The construction of the Tarfaya windmill complex started in January 2013, and was completed within two years, launching in 2015. Today it stretches more than 100,000 hectares across the Saharan desert . In 2010, the government decided to double its national wind energy production through developing an additional 1000 MW by 2020. 40% of that added capacity, or 400 MW, is to be developed within the occupied area .
While the village of Tarfaya itself sits on the Moroccan side of the Western Sahara border, four existing or soon-to-exist windfarms are situated on the other side. In 2016, Ban Ki Moon described the situation in Western Sahara as an ‘occupation’. Western Sahara has been occupied by Morocco, just north along the coast, since 1975. The story of the conflict for Western Sahara’s natural resources (including wind power) is the story of the colonization of Western Sahara.
The village of Tarfaya is surrounded by military checkpoints, as well as 12 waves of wind turbines.
The main issues around the windfarm complex revolve around the lack of jobs and most importantly the implications for the peace process.
Of the plant’s 60 or so workers, only three office staff members and 15 security guards are Saharawi (2). The struggle for sovereignty is intertwined with the opposition to the exploitation of the windfarm in that the wishes and interests of the local population are not being respected. Crucially, the operation is contributing to the continuance of the unresolved international legal situation, and thus Morocco’s presence and resource exploitation in a territory over which it does not have legitimate sovereignty . Leading opponents of socio-economic marginalisation of the Saharawis are serving life sentences in Moroccan jails. In 2016, during the COP22 hosted in Marrakech, there were protests in some of the Saharawi refugee camps across the border to Algeria, calling on attendees to learn about the injustices committed by the Moroccan government and the way in which ‘sustainable” or “green” projects are used to cement the occupation as well as extract resources for the benefit of the Moroccan government over the local Saharawi population. The demonstrations were organised by three youth groups. Ali Salem Tamek, the vice-president of Codesa, a Saharawi human rights collective, referred to the complexity around the need to remain critical of green projects when they are part of a colonial project: “It is amazing to have green energy. It is our responsibility as human beings to protect the world we live in, but if you occupy your neighbours’ yard to produce that green energy – and sell it to them at the end – believe me, your neighbours will not be happy about it.”