Spain Achieves Renewable Milestone. Italian Town Grows With Renewables.

January 8, 2014


Wind power generated 21.1 percent of Spain’s energy (blogger’s note: “energy” is not correct here – “electricity” is accurate) needs in 2013, reported the national energy grid this month, becoming the top source of electrical power in the country, narrowly ahead of nuclear energy at 21 percent.

On Monday, BusinessGreen reported the findings from a study by the Red Eléctrica de España (REE), revealing for “the first time ever, that [wind power] contributed most to the annual electricity demand coverage.”

In total, wind farms were estimated to have generated 53,926GWh of electricity last year, up 12 per cent on 2012. Meanwhile renewable energy sources in total provided 42.4 percent of the country’s electricity, up from 10.5 percent the previous year.

The added renewable energy in the mix in 2013 is predicted to have reduced the greenhouse gas emissions of Spain’s energy sector by 23.1 percent from 2012 levels, according to REE.

“Throughout 2013, the all-time highs of wind power production were exceeded,” the report stated.

“On 6 February, wind power recorded a new maximum of instantaneous power with 17,056MW at 3:49 pm (2.5 per cent up on the previous record registered in April 2012), and that same day the all-time maximum for hourly energy was also exceeded reaching 16,918MWh.

BusinessGreen noted that the fall in greenhouse gas emissions had also been caused by a 2.1 percent decrease in overall power demand. However, the increased weight of renewable energy sources likely played the main role in cutting down emissions.

Besides wind power, solar power generation also saw an increase in PV capacity by 140MW and thermal capacity by 300MW. High levels of rainfall experienced last year also meant hydroelectric power output was 16 percent higher than the historical average, climbing to 32,205GWh.

Meanwhile high emitting energy sources saw a major reduction in power output. Coal-fired plants for instance saw a 27.3 percent decrease in power generation.


A trip to Varese Ligure, Italy, will bring you face to face with a charming town of pastel-colored houses and a plethora of restaurants serving dishes with organic porcini mushrooms and chestnuts. Stop at the bustling markets and you will see Italians who have traveled from far and wide to purchase the locally produced organic meats, cheeses, and honey. It’s a far cry from just 20 years ago, when this town in the Liguria region of northwest Italy was fading away due to a lack of jobs, no industry, decaying properties, and a lack of essential services.

At the end of the ’80s, Varese Ligure, a small town (pop: 2,400) located in the Vara valley in the province of La Spezia, had gone from a population of 6,000 to 2,250. However, the mayor at the time, Maurizio Caranza, refused to give up hope for his dying town. He decided to take what others thought of as Varese Ligure’s weaknesses—geographical isolation, lack of modern industry, antiquated farming practices—and turn them into strengths. He realized the valley’s clean air and unspoiled land were assets and opportunities. What better way to capitalize on those attributes than by becoming a sustainable tourist destination through renewable energy and organic farming?

“We realized the only thing to do to prevent the village from dying was to protect the environment and rehabilitate the agriculture sector,” Caranza told Italian news agency Adnkronos International.

The forward-thinking mayor hit on a gold mine. This was in the early 1990s, before climate change and mad cow disease became household words. Little did he know that in the following decades the organic and environmental movements would mushroom (pun intended).

Now, 20 years later, four wind turbines produce 8 gigawatt-hours of electricity per year, generating three times more electricity than the town uses. The town hall and secondary school are covered with solar photovoltaic panels, producing on site 98 percent and 62 percent of their electricity needs, respectively. The wastewater treatment plant has a 4 kW PV system and the town swimming pool is heated with solar panels. There is also a small 8 kW hydroelectric system.

The electricity from the renewable energy systems is fed into the local grid managed by ACAM, the electric utility company in La Spezia. While ACAM manages and maintains the wind turbines, the ACAM utility and the municipality jointly own them. ACAM pays Varese Ligure about $30,000 each year for the excess electricity and also provides the town with various services as part of its payment for the electricity, such as sorted waste and landfill site management.

To rebuild the town, Caranza asked the residents if they would be willing to repair and renovate their ancient stone houses—an image of which sits juxtaposed against a modern wind turbine on the municipality’s website—if the public administration got funding to redo the roads, sewers, aqueducts, and street lighting. Though some people were resistant at first, Caranza finally won them over, and home renovations began. While some of the funding for renovations came from the European Union, the majority of it came from the citizens themselves. A psychological factor was at work, Caranza told travel journalist Giovanna Dunmall. “If you go to someone’s house and it’s much nicer and cleaner than yours, then when you go back to your home you realize that you want to improve it, too.”

There was also a lot of education about organic farming practices, and a push for farmers to stop using chemical fertilizers. Most farmers actually couldn’t afford chemical fertilizers, so were farming organically out of necessity already, but weren’t officially certified. To get these conservative farmers to become organic certified, Caranza explained that organic products could be sold at higher prices and helped farmers get EU grants for organic farms. Now 108 organic farms supply 98 percent of town’s produce, meat, and dairy products. The Vara valley, now known as the “Organic Valley,” became Europe’s first valley to be certified ISO 14001, the international benchmark for environmental management.

14 Responses to “Spain Achieves Renewable Milestone. Italian Town Grows With Renewables.”

  1. Caranza, Now that’s progressive thought in action. In Spain, renewables are lowering electric CO2 production. Transportation and space heating are now the sectors most in need of change to lower co2.

  2. fortranprog Says:

    Viva Espana – usted está haciendo un trabajo damas magnifient y caballeros de España, and I’m please to see a great effort in bonny Scotland too:

    • daryan12 Says:

      Scotland’s renewable potential is likely to grow by quite a bit. One nice feature is that there’s lots of dams, which can be used to even out the peaks and troughs of wind power. Also while conventional hydro is hitting its limits, there is considerable scope for more pumped storage systems.

      Offshore Scotland has some of the best wind and wave potential in Europe. There’s also plans to build a large array of tidal stream turbines up in the Pentland Firth.

      Also many of Scotland’s Island and remote highland estates use renewables increasingly day to day for off-grid power generation. Which is important as often the only other alternative is diesel generators, which is expensive and requires fuel to be shipped in (not easy in the middle of winter!).

      If Scotland ever gets independence I’ll expect they’ll be building a electricity meter 100 stories high at the border so the English will know how much they owe!

      • dumboldguy Says:

        Scotland goes energy independent?

        May I suggest that if that happened, all true Scotsmen would just disconnect the English and instead of building a meter, line up along the border and moon them a la Braveheart?

  3. The better this stuff gets, the louder and more obnoxious the coal trolls will be.

  4. Andy Lee Robinson Says:

    The windrush gains momentum…

    Building China’s giant wind farms
    8 January 2014 Last updated at 02:28 GMT
    More and more cities in China are seeing their streets filled with smog as cars and power stations pollute the air – and one response by the Chinese government is to launch a major push for cleaner renewable energy.

    China is now the world’s leading producer of wind power and it has plans to install thousands of turbines every year, especially in the remote regions in the country’s far west.

    Science editor David Shukman went to see of China’s giant wind farms taking shape.

  5. Power station pollutes this world but if we do’t have that then we want to think about world without power. Yes ofcourse wind energy which was a nice concept but you know it can’t be taken account in many parts of the world.

  6. edaviesmeuk Says:

    Nice report but please don’t conflate electricity and energy:

    “Wind power generated 21.1 percent of Spain’s energy needs in 2013”.

    To really generate 21.1% of Spain’s energy wind would have had to generate about 100% of the electricity – electricity is typically about 1/5th of a country’s energy use.

  7. climatebob Says:

    In New Zealand we are at 85% renewable electric energy which is mostly hyrdo with geothermal next and some wind. We are closing our last two coal fired boilers and changing them to gas. The next step is to convert our transport to electric to reduce our import bill.

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