Wind of change: Two sides of the ecologist movement clash as Spain debates renewable energy

Beautiful View Of Field With Wind Turbines At Sunset And Cloudy
Beautiful view of field with wind turbines at sunset and cloudy sky in northern Spain

OUCH! Another electric bill arrived today as more evidence of the skyrocketing price of energy. 

Electricity costs have quadrupled – yes quadrupled! – from February last year to February this year, according to official figures (Statista) in Spain.

You might assume then that any additional source supplying power to the grid would be much welcomed. 

Not so, if you consider the current hot debate in town halls around many parts of Spain.

Take inland Valencia. Requena, Utiel and Siete Aguas are all opposing the installation of 10 new wind turbines in the nearby Sierra de Tejo.

These turbines are massive – significantly larger than those in nearby Buñol and other parts of the province – and would be installed atop towers of up to 110 metres and with blades measuring 150 metres (normally 40 to 90 metres).

To proceed, two forest tracks will have to be built and maintained to accommodate the oversized turbines around Siete Aguas. 

Healthy stands of pine and oak will need to be cut, resulting in potential erosion, while a high voltage line will run to a substation on the opposite side of the A-3 highway. 

Such are the concerns for bird mortality, the town halls are preparing a motion to expand the special ZEPA bird protection zone, an EU directive that already covers much of the Sierra del Tejo area. 

Beautiful View Of Field With Wind Turbines At Sunset And Cloudy
Beautiful view of field with wind turbines at sunset and cloudy sky in northern Spain. Photo: Adobe Stock

On many levels, I hope they are successful, but there is another side to this debate: On windy days in Spain, wind generation supplies up to 71% of the nation’s demand – surpassing all other electricity sources. 

It is cheaper per kilowatt hour, emits much less greenhouse gas and uses less water consumption than any other energy source. 

Furthermore, it makes electricity directly, circumventing the need to burn fossil fuels (coal) or process uranium for nuclear power. 

Spain has a favourable topography and climate for wind power and is, in fact, the fifth largest wind power creator in the world.

As it did with tunnelling (due to its mountains), the country has developed proven technical know-how to improve and expand in wind generation.

Climate impact vs. high cost of energy debates will not end. The arguments both for and against wind power are symptomatic of complex, multi-faceted issues that have no easy solutions. 

The energy companies and town halls, like those in rural Valencia, both make convincing arguments for their side.

There are no easy answers; the exponential rise in electricity costs are draconian and the arguments against turbines are often strong. 

The best we can do is apply careful scrutiny and scientific rigour to the debates in each specific area… and all the while, turn off the lights, and watch our energy consumption.  


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