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Proyecto Julio 29, 2021

Extracting Ecuadorian Amazon Balsa Wood To Boost Green Energy in Europe

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The Ecuadorian Amazon is experiencing yet another environmental and social crisis; this time due to the indiscriminate exploitation of balsa wood, much of it illegally extracted, triggered by an international demand boom.

Balsa wood is widely used for the manufacture of blades (they can measure more than 100 m long) for giant wind power generators, mainly in Europe and China. One such blade consumes up to 150 cubic meters of balsa wood (at an average density of 150 kg/m3, a blade can weigh more than 20 tons).

DemocraciaAbierta will produce a multimedia reportage that includes text, interviews, and a video (of about 15 minutes) in which it will expose how this supply chain works and the different aspects of the problem, including contradictions of the different actors involved in the process. It will highlight the paradoxical relationship between European renewable energy strategy, and the depredatory exploitation of wood in Indigenous territories of the Ecuadorian Amazon. It will conclude with a strong recommendation for the use of existing alternative materials in the blades of the wind power generators.

The project will combine investigation and footage from Ecuador and from Europe to unveil the complete cycle of the balsa wood supply chain. In Ecuador, a team will enter the territory to get images of the logging operations and interview Indigenous community leaders. The Iberian Peninsula is home to one of the largest European wind turbine blades factories and has also large wind farms and expansion projects. These places will be investigated and those involved, including experts, will be interviewed.