March 5th 2009 was particularly windy day in Spain, allowing the country’s 18,000 wind turbines to spin out over 11,200 megawatts of energy; a record amount that covered 28 percent of the country’s energy needs at that precise time. And it won’t stop there. Spain’s wind power industry is one of its fastest growing: capacities doubled between 2003 and 2006 and will probably do so again by 2010. Spain is now the third largest in the world for installed wind power (behind the USA and Germany). The AEE (Spanish Wind Energy Association) claims that wind energy in Spain avoided the emission of 20 million tonnes of greenhouse gasses in 2008 alone.
Spain’s wind power revolution has come about through a happy marriage of government and power companies (who are obliged, by law, to purchase the power the turbines produce) and a hell of a lot of open space. In Galicia, the wet, windy and rural north-western region of Spain, swathes of unused land was expropriated from farmers for wind parks, a measure which incurred negligible resistance. On the whole, the visual impact of wind parks has had little debate here.
‘It’s to do with perception,’ says Sergio de Otto, spokesperson for the AEE. ‘Most people realise (though public awareness campaigns) that they are contributing in a positive way to climate change. They see them with different eyes.’
In Navarra, where renewable energies (with wind power at the lead) have the capacity to reach almost 70 percent of its inhabitants’ needs, Barcelona-based architects Emiliano López and Mónica Rivera were confronted with the presence of a wind park when drawing up the plans for Aire de Bardenas, their award-winning hotel nestled on the edge of the astounding Bardenas Reales desert. The turbines whirl away on the top of an escarpment close to the hotel’s minimalist bungalows, and are as much a feature of the vistas from the rooms as the surrounding landscape. ‘We didn’t want to make a ‘theme’ of the windmills nor ignore them,’ says Rivera. ‘We just accepted the terrain as it was, and adapted to the reality of the land.’