Jeff's Blog

My daily (well I am trying to update daily now) weblog covering topics such as wind power, embedded electronics, software development, CNC Machines and some fun stuff like travel and sailing.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Alternative Energy in Spain

While traveling in Spain for six weeks to study alternative energy and green technologies, I have observed some interesting trends.

I have been staying in a small pueblo named Casas de Benitez. Casas de Benitez has a population of slightly more than 1,000 people, and is flanked with wind generators (called molinetas by the locals) and solar cell farms. Everywhere I have gone in Spain over the past month (mostly in the Castilla-La Mancha region) has been dotted with wind turbines and solar cell farms. I recently drove from Casas de Benitez to Alicante for some sailing, and constantly passed wind farms.

We also passed a wide load on the highway which turned out to be a huge semi hauling three 100 meter blades for a new turbine installation.

This is the area of Spain where Cervantes wrote Don Quixote, and Molinos were used to grind wheat into flower for centuries. As I walked through the narrow streets of Casas de Benitez, vacant lots were covered which grains of wheat drying in the hot summer sun and in preparation for grinding by molinas (not wind powered in this case).

Spain's wind output has doubled over the last three years and will double again before 2010. While we are seeing wind power growth in the US, it is not as dramatic as in Spain. Helping things more, Spain's wind turbines, for the most part large HAWTs (horizontal axis wind turbines), are much lighter than most due to new technology developed in Spain.I hope that wind power in the US will now grow at faster rates. Certainly the gasoline price increases and resultant economic effects will help make the country take a long term look at alternative energy. Hopefully we won't repeat the shortsighted mistakes that were made in the 1970's after the first gas crisis abated and prices dropped.

More information on Spain's wind power growth can be read in this interesting article from MITs Technology Review. I found it very interesting the all wind farms in Spain are linked together and controlled by a central computing facility. Take time to play the interview video (available in several languages) at the MIT website because it is extremely interesting.

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