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From The Australian. Places like Tasmania could well follow the same principles outlined in this article.


Solar city sets sights on ending pollution

Thomas Catan in Madrid

June 03, 2007

IT sounds like an environmentalist's dream: a rural idyll that generates its electricity from nothing more polluting than sun, wind and hay. But that is exactly what the Spanish region of Navarre, on the border with France, hopes to achieve within a few years.
The fiercely autonomous region gets close to 70 per cent of its electricity from renewable sources. It hopes to achieve 75 per cent by 2010 and, soon afterwards, become a net exporter of clean energy.
Navarre’s sudden leap to becoming a world leader in renewable energy is drawing international interest. The region has received delegations from Britain and Ireland – and as far afield as Tasmania.

“Renewable energy has become one of the things Navarre is known for,” José Javier Armendáriz, Industry Minister for the regional government, said. Among the other things are the bull run through the streets of the capital, Pamplona, and a type of gem lettuce known in Spain as cogollo.

As Britain and other countries debate how to meet the increasing demand for electricity while cutting back on greenhouse gas emissions, many people are looking at Navarre for inspiration. It is a sparsely populated region of 600,000 people in an area half the size of Wales. It is connected to the Spanish national grid and able to draw on gas, coal and nuclear generators when the wind does not blow or the sun fails to shine.

The regional government says that its switch to renewable energy could, and should, be copied by entire nations. “I think the model we have here in Navarre – a decisive bet on renewable energy – is perfectly transferable to the level of a country,” Mr Armendáriz said.

There are 1,100 windmills in this region of just over 10,000sq km (6,000sq miles). More than 55 per cent of the region’s electricity comes from wind power alone.

Navarre is also developing other technologies. It has built several photovoltaic solar farms, which turn sunlight into electricity, has a biomass plant that generates power from straw, and has “solar thermal” plants that use the sun to heat water and to drive a generator.

The region has mini hydro-electric plants that make use of rivers, and “co-generation” plants to recover energy from industrial sites that would otherwise be wasted. And it has a biofuels plant that transforms vegetable oils into diesel, with motorway service stations being built to sell it.

Some environmentalists worry that the presence of so many windmills is spoiling the landscape and killing birds. “What they are doing is absolutely unsustainable and completely illegal,” says Antonio Munilla, of Gurelur, an environmental group. “We have taken this matter before the Congress and European Union.” Other environmental groups, such as Greenpeace, strongly support the experiment.

Acciona EnergÍa, the company that has built most of Navarre’s renewable energy projects, says that its surveys have traditionally found that less than 5 per cent of people were in opposition. The first wind farm was built in full view of Pamplona’s 200,000 residents. “We wanted to show that there was nothing to hide,” says José Arrieta, a spokesman for Acciona.

More than 70,000 schoolchildren have visited renewable energy installations as part of the local government’s education campaign.

“I think it is very positive,” says Mikel Larumbe, a 28-year-old resident of Pamplona. “They say oil is running out, and it certainly pollutes. So I like the fact that where renewable energy is concerned, Navarre is a model to follow.”

Amid the vineyards of the nearby town of Milagro, hundreds of solar panels turn to face the sun like huge robotic sunflowers in what Acciona says is the world’s largest solar field. Under the “solar allotment” concept, each panel is owned by an individual investor, who pays the €48,000 (£32,500) needed to set it up. The company arranges the loan, operates the panel and collects the revenues from the grid operator. The panel is guaranteed for a minimum of 25 years, and Acciona expects the original investment to be paid off in ten. The rest is profit.

As impressive as it looks, the installation at Milagro provides a meagre amount of electricity. The solar panels, which occupy an area equivalent to 50 football pitches, generate 9.5 mega-watts of peak power, the same as six wind turbines.

Spain is a world leader in renewable energies – it produces more than 21 per cent of its electricity from such sources and plans to reach nearly 30 per cent by 2010. By contrast, Britain generates just over 4 per cent of its power from renewables and has a target to reach 10 per cent by 2010.

Festival town

— Navarre is perhaps most famous for the 16th-century “Running of the Bulls” festival in Pamplona, where bulls are released in the cobbled streets of the old city centre and men try to prove their mettle by running alongside them. Thirteen people have died in the festival since 1924

— Although overshadowed by nearby Rioja, Navarre is famed for its Garnacha rosé. However, in recent years production has shifted to reds – cabernet sauvignon, merlot and tempranillo

— The region has a rich history, changing hands between various empires as well as existing as an independent kingdom during the Middle Ages

— The region also provides the setting for Love's Labour's Lost by William Shakespeare

The Times
 
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