Spain’s Energy Conundrum

Having spent plenty of time roaming the wilds of Spain it became evident that they have some funny ideas here when it comes harvesting electricity. Sounds strange to call it ‘harvesting’ but that’s exactly what it is.

There are dams everywhere on all different scales; from the Mequinenza Dam in Aragon to the small mountainside types such as the almost home-made looking thing in Monsteney. Now I get the principle with dams; water runs through, turbines spin and electricity is generated. The dam itself supposedly has little impact on the environment and is a clean form of energy but that’s not strictly true.

 

The little dam at Montseney creates power for the little communities nearby.

 

Dams starve the surrounding land of vital water and mess with the eco-system, as witnessed in the Rio Ebro at Caspe where water levels dropped by 15 metres and pollution gathers in the shallow, overfished waters. Building a dam has a huge environmental cost and needs massive maintenance to keep it running once it’s built.

In a country with so much easily harvested energy such as solar and wind, it seems strange that they rely on dams so much. I know that it takes a lot of energy to make solar panels and material costs for wind turbines are high but they generate far more energy than they cost in return and are truly better on the environment.

 

The dam at Mequinenza looks great from this side. The other side is an overfished, dirty pollution-fest with dropping water levels.

 

We did see plenty of wind farms in the mountains and despite the conversation about aesthetics they are one of the best forms of generating renewable energy. Solar farms too are a terrific thing; we drove between fields of panels which rotate to face the sun at all times. For those who find them ugly, remember that they produce renewable energy, take very little maintenance and noiselessly provide plenty of power, taking up only a small area of land in the process.

So, what I’m saying is, it’s great to see Spain moving away from huge, environmentally dangerous dams and into the realm of solar and wind where they have sources in abundance but it should be happening faster. I hope the rest of the world begins to follow soon as I can see the next few generations looking back at these times and wondering that the hell we were doing with the planet.

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