Spain continues to generate more electricity from renewable sources as its renewable share of electricity rose to 50.8 percent in 2023 from 42.2 percent in 2022. According to a draft government report issued in June, Spain’s goal is to raise the share of renewables to four-fifths by 2030. The new climate plan includes higher targets for solar and wind power capacity as well as energy storage. Spain plans to double its 2030 biogas production target and almost triple its “green hydrogen” goal as part of its climate goals. The plan also confirms the phase-out of carbon dioxide-free nuclear energy and speeds up Spain’s exit from coal, set for 2025 from 2030 previously. It will require investments of about 294 billion euros ($322 billion), of which 85 percent is expected to come from the private sector, with the remainder coming from public funds, including from the European Union.

The draft climate strategy sets a 2030 target of 11 gigawatts for electrolyzers, which would be used to make green hydrogen, up from 4 gigawatts. It also plans to double the target for biogas production to 20 terawatt hours. The new plan increases targets for wind generation capacity to 62 gigawatts from 30 gigawatts currently, nearly tripling the amount of annual installations to 4 gigawatts per year from the 1.4 gigawatts achieved in 2022. It increases photovoltaic solar generation capacity to around 76 gigawatts and power storage capacity to 22 gigawatts. European countries had an end-of-June deadline to submit an updated draft proposal to the European Commission. The draft begins a public consultation, which will last until September 4. The final plan is due by June of next year.

Spain has one of the most developed wind industries in the world, integrating almost the entire supply chain from manufacturing of the turbines and the operation of more than 1,345 wind farms in 850 municipalities. But Spain is facing a public backlash over the proliferation of wind farms, their size and indirect impacts on issues like recycling and reclamation. A number of provinces like Galicia have imposed moratoria on new wind projects. Companies are facing losses as power demand and prices fall and domestic manufacturing plants face stiff competition from countries like China. Overall energy demand was down almost 3 percent last year due to higher capital costs and energy efficiency measures amid a broader economic slowdown. Industry experts warn that the country’s ambitious targets can only be met if power demand is increased through the uptake of electric vehicles and expedited permit approvals. Wind generates about 22 percent of Spanish electricity demand.

Spain Needs to Replace Old Wind Turbines

It is unclear whether Spain factored into its draft plan the cost of replacing 36 percent of its wind turbines, which will need to be decommissioned within the next five years as they become obsolete, according to the Wind Energy Association (AEE). That results in around 7,500 wind turbines and 20,000 blades that will need to be turned into scrap after they are dismantled, transported, and processed, posing not only a cost but also a significant logistical challenge. Every third wind turbine currently operating in Spain was installed before 2005 and the lifespan of wind turbines generating electricity is about 20 to 25 years—far less than the 40 to 60 year life of coal, gas and nuclear plants. While about 85 percent of wind turbine components, including steel, copper wires, electronics, and generators, can be reused, there is a large challenge in the disposal of the fiberglass blades, which only a few landfills accept and which emit dangerous pollutants when burned. Spain is scrambling to build recycling plants and facilities, however, to process the reuseable components.

While new wind turbines are more efficient than old ones, there is still a sizeable number needed to replace those that will be retired. The European Commission plans to double the budget to EURO 1.4 billion ($1.54 billion) for its clean technology program and expedite permit-related bureaucracy to ensure that by 2030, 45 percent of energy comes from renewable sources. Despite the growth, the wind industry in Europe, including Spain, is facing billion-euro losses, mainly due to competition from China, which has been developing its clean energy resources for decades and offers lower prices due to cheap coal power and government subsidization.

Wind energy poses other challenges for nature in that turbine blades kill birds and possibly other wildlife. In 2022, a large U.S. utility that generates wind power pleaded guilty to federal crimes for killing 150 eagles and was ordered to pay over $8 million in fines. Dead Right whales have been washed ashore along the U.S. East Coast as offshore wind activity is under way there.

Solar Issues 

Solar power also has issues. Solar energy subsidies have caused the deforestation of thousands of acres in Massachusetts without providing much reliable power given its gray skies. According to a Massachusetts Audubon Society study, “Since 2010, over 5,000 acres of natural and working lands have been destroyed for solar development in Massachusetts, resulting in the emission of over half a million metric tons of carbon dioxide—more than the annual emissions of 100,000 passenger cars.” “Thousands of acres of forests, farms, and other carbon-rich landscapes are being converted to host large-scale solar,” the report noted. The removal of trees undercuts the state’s requirement to reduce emissions because trees are an effective carbon removal tool.

Solar panels also result in more environmental contamination than say, nuclear power plants, requiring 17 times more materials in the form of cement, glass, concrete, and steel than nuclear plants, and creating over 200 times more waste, such as “dust from toxic heavy metals including lead, cadmium, and chromium.” Nuclear plants emit no air pollution and do not kill birds.


Spain has released its draft report on its climate program goals and expects to increase renewable energy to 80 percent by 2030, doubling its capacity of wind power, among other increases in renewable technologies. Wind, however, has a massive waste problem that is looming in Spain. About 36 percent of Spain’s wind turbines will need to be decommissioned by 2028 as they become obsolete, requiring their massive fiberglass blades to be disposed of in the few landfills that accept them or be burned, releasing pollutants. The cost of replacing the obsolete turbines even with improved wind turbine efficiency, disposing of the turbine blades and recycling of useable components will be enormous. That cost would need to be added to the cost of the massive increase in renewable capacity that Spain needs to meet its new 2030 climate goals, the majority of which it expects to receive from the private sector, which is currently experiencing stiff competition from China. Spain continues to press for more renewable energy despite high unemployment and the offshoring of its industries, in part because of EU financial support.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email