Spain's Wind Farms Break Energy Record

For the first time, electricity production from Spanish wind mills topped that of nuclear, coal and solar. Spain's location in the south of Europe means it's endowed with lots of sunshine and clear windy skies — which it's put to use becoming a leader in renewable energy.

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

We'll begin NPR's business news with strong winds in Spain.

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GREENE: Spain has a pretty good location in the south of Europe. They are accustomed to good weather, plenty of sunshine, clear skies and wind - which the country is putting to good use. Spain has become a leader in renewable energy. In fact, the country's wind farms have broken a new record, as Lauren Frayer reports from Madrid.

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LAUREN FRAYER, BYLINE: High-tech wind turbines now dot these plains where Don Quixote's windmills once stood. Spanish winters are windy and since November, these wind farms have made history. Their electricity output has topped that of coal, nuclear and solar energy for the first time.

HEIKKI WILLSTEDT: This is a real - an incredible feat.

FRAYER: Heikki Willstedt, with the Spanish Wind Power Association, says 26 percent of Spain's electricity for the past 100 days, has come from wind. Excluding heavy industry, that's enough to power every household in Spain and cut back on fossil fuels, too.

WILLSTEDT: In the last hundred days, Spain has taken out from the wind the equivalent of 31 million barrels of oil.

FRAYER: But that achievement is bittersweet because a week ago, the government cut subsidies for wind power. Energy economist Gonzalo Escribano says the reform levies a new, 7 percent tax across the board.

GONZALO ESCRIBANO: It is not an environmental reform because they are not taxing more carbon-intensive energies. They are charging all of them the same.

FRAYER: Shares in Spanish wind companies have plummeted. And Willstedt, with the Spanish Wind Power Association, worries that some renewable energy companies might cut their losses and leave Spain altogether.

WILLSTEDT: Something like 30 billion U.S. dollars invested in the sector. So these kind of measure - destroy this value, and destroy the investor confidence.

FRAYER: Wind power is almost at the point where it's profitable without government subsidies. And Escribano, the economist, says one thing is certain.

ESCRIBANO: We don't know if there will be any more shale gas in 40 years' time. We don't know if Saudi Arabia will remain as oil exporter. But what I can tell you is in hundred, 200, whenever - well, it depends on climate change, for sure - we'll still - having sun and wind.

FRAYER: For NPR News, I'm Lauren Frayer in Madrid.

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