Wind energy is the main source of renewable electricity in Malaga province, although the impact on birds and noise often draws criticism from environmentalists and town halls. Vientos de futuro (Winds of future) is a platform where industry, scientists and social groups can debate and look for solutions. Carlos Martí, a journalist specialising in sustainability, is its spokesperson.
–Why was there a need to set up such a platform?
–Vientos de Futuro has come about due to the need to strengthen dialogue and consensus on energy and ecological transition due to the climate emergency, where Spain has certain objectives to meet in the fight against climate change and the reduction of energy dependence. Faced with this enormous challenge, we believe it is important to create spaces for meeting and dialogue to highlight the role of wind, which is the most important renewable energy. Vientos de Futuro is made up of four founding organisations and 20 members. It is now introducing itself around Spain and organising activities in towns where there are wind farms.
–What is the impact of wind farm energy on homes?
–In 2021, at 23 per cent, wind energy was the primary source of electricity production in Spain. That means one in four light bulbs was powered by it. Spain has always been a leader and has been at the forefront with an industry that has more than 20 years of experience. According to the national plan, the installed power has to increase from 28 gigawatts to 50 gigawatts by 2030, so the installed power has to double. It is a huge challenge. The objective is for 74 per cent of electricity to be generated by renewables and of that, 35 per cent will be wind power in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 23 per cent. This is a spectacular leap and it is essential that the main source of renewable energy has a space where all opinions and voices can find a place for debate and knowledge, so as not to generate ignorance and uncertainty, because the majority of Spaniards have no knowledge of where their energy comes from. In addition we need to tackle climate change, as heat waves and fires are growing problems.
–What do Malaga province's wind farms generate?
–There are 25 wind farms in the province of Malaga, producing almost 1.4 million megawatt hours. It is the second Andalusian province with the highest wind power generation after Cadiz. In Malaga, wind energy production accounts for 60.7 per cent of all the energy generated. The Andalusian strategy plans to double the installed capacity, in line with the national project. According to the Andalusian Energy Agency, by 2020 gross renewable production should have accounted for 51 per cent of the energy generated, of which almost 45 per cent would have been produced on wind farms.
–One of the criticisms of solar energy in villages is that it is incompatible with livestock and agricultural practices. What about wind energy?
–Wind power is compatible with livestock farming, agriculture, forestry management and tourism, as well as being a driver of high-quality job creation. In Andalucía, 163 wind farms create 880 jobs, as well as indirect jobs and taxes that serve to improve the conditions of villages and the fight against depopulation.
–One of the biggest criticisms from environmental groups is the problem of birds flying into the blades.
–At Vientos de Futuro we want to listen to everyone, because wind energy has developed well but it can be done better. In Spain there is a lot of protected land and then there are security perimeters around inhabited areas. Companies can't put wind farms wherever they want and only after very strict environmental impact analyses, so as not to cause damage. Are there problems? Undoubtedly, everything can be improved, but in general they are integrated and there are only occasional problems. We are promoting a platform where science and industry can sit down and talk, in order to make it as good as possible because we want it to improve.
–How have wind farms changed since their beginnings?
–Technology is advancing very quickly and it's a homegrown industry, so they are becoming more efficient, safer and producing more electricity. The wind farms created 20 years ago are being renovated and technology is helping us to reduce the impact on the environment and to improve the integration of the turbines. In Andalucía, wind power saved three million tonnes of CO2 emissions in 2020, which is what a million cars emit in a city like Malaga. It does not need water, it does not pollute the soil and it generally integrates quite well in the area.
–In a coastal area like Malaga, what is the impact of offshore wind farms?
–With the platform we are currently only working with onshore wind, which is what we have in Spain, but offshore wind is going to grow significantly. The government is looking at the framework for authorised areas and the sector is waiting to see where they can be installed. They are going to be key to meeting Spain's targets.
–How do you see the future of energy?
–We are going to need much more renewable energy, we have to produce more, also to supply renewable hydrogen production and make more electric vehicles. It is inevitable, and it is compatible with private use vehicles but private use vehicles alone are not enough.
–Finally, what would say to people who reject the idea of wind energy?
–Vientos de Futuro was created to listen to everyone, to seek consensus from society and to avoid problems with birds and noise. A lot of progress has been made and the wind industry has this objective. The problems and solutions are complex. We need to sit down and look at all the options in order to keep improving and make sure that people are better informed and that they know more about energy so that we can tackle climate change.