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economic and technological growth with the strong winds that
sweep over the country’s mountains and plains.
Wind Power Is an Economic Winner in Spain
One reason Spain stands out from other European leaders in wind
power, according to Corin Millais, head of the European Wind
Energy Association, is that environmental issues have not been the
major driving force behind this expansion.
“It’s much more a story about regional growth, economic
deployment, driving an economy that requires increasing amounts
of energy,” said Millais. “There’s more of a fundamental value of
wind power to an economy in Spain than in northern Europe.”
And the ﬁgures in Spain support this claim. When the ﬁrst
renewable energy plan was enacted in the late 1990s, energy
demand was predicted to increase by 1.2 percent per year. In-
stead, demand has grown by around 3 to 4 percent. In addi-
tion, wind power has grown much more rapidly than expected,
with installed capacity increasing by about 30 percent per year.
Currently, the government estimates that 300 to 400 Spanish
companies are involved in wind power, supporting about 30,000
jobs, with that number expected to double by 2010. This healthy
job growth experienced as well in other industries has been crucial:
a decade ago, the unemployment rate in Spain was more than 20
percent; it has since fallen to 8.5 percent in 2005.
In addition to economic and technological development,
wind power in Spain has transformed the countryside. All along
northern Spain’s famous Camino de Santiago (St. James’ Way),
an ancient Christian pilgrimage route through the Pyrenees, plains,
and along the coastline, ending at the burial site of the martyr St.
James in Santiago, pilgrims travel past modern-day windmills. But
the transformation has been more than visual, for the income that
wind farms bring to poorer rural areas has literally saved some
The goals of the Spanish government in promoting wind are
twofold. First, to reduce dependency on imported oil. “In relation
The top ﬁve countries listed below account for over 67 percent
of total wind energy installation worldwide.
Source: 2004 American Wind Energy Association
Top Five Countries with Highest Total
Installed Wind Capacity
to other countries in the OECD and the European Union, Spain is
much more dependent on foreign oil,” said Javier Garcia Breva,
until fall 2005 director general of the Spanish Institute for Energy
Diversiﬁcation and Saving (IDAE), part of the Spanish government.
“The country is very vulnerable to variations in the oil market.
So, at the ﬁrst analysis, the renewable energy plan has focused on
increasing energy independence in Spain.”
The second goal, according to Garcia, is equally important:
reducing carbon dioxide emissions in line with the goals of the
European Union. According to IDAE ﬁgures, if Spain meets
its goal of generating 30 percent of its electricity needs from
renewable power by 2010, with half of that amount coming
from wind power, it will reduce emissions of carbon dioxide by
77 million tons.
A Global Trend
The rapid growth in wind-generated power in Spain reﬂects a
global trend. According to the Global Wind Energy Council
(GWEC), wind-power capacity has been increasing at least 20
percent each year between 2000 and 2005, and wind turbines
today can produce 200 times more power than equivalent
turbines two decades ago.
The wind-power sector is coming of age. Its energy is
relatively cheap to produce, some of its technologies have
matured— even though there are several breakthrough tech-
nologies being developed in Spain—and more countries and
communities are turning to wind to reduce both their
dependency on foreign fuel and their contribution to global
warming. The GWEC expects the costs of power from wind to
be competitive with those from conventional fuel within a decade.
In many areas, wind power is still more expensive than other
conventional fuels, though costs have plummeted since the 1980s
(when wind power was in its infancy). Today, according to the
American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), in the windiest sites,
wind power may sell for around 4 to 5 cents per kilowatt hour,
which compares well with energy prices in new coal or gas-ﬁred
plants. Recent ﬂuctuations in steel prices have kept wind power
prices steady, rather than continuing this downward trend; but
natural gas costs have risen in the same period, making wind
Today there are more than 50,000 megawatts of installed wind-
power capacity around the world, up from only 17,000 megawatts
a decade ago.
Surpassing Goals in Spain
The Spanish story reﬂects those dramatic changes. In 1999, the
gover nment set a goal for wind power at 9,000 megawatts of
capacity by 2011. By midway through 2005, however, more than
that amount of wind power had already fed into the Spanish grid,
compared with only 800 megawatts in 1999–2000.
In response, in August 2005, the Spanish government once
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