Celebrating Spain's first turbine

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A quarter of a century has passed since Spain powered up its first wind turbine, a 15 kW machine with a 12 metre rotor designed, built and operated by early pioneer Ecotècnia. The anniversary of the machine's installation in the Catalonian hills of Vilopriu was celebrated recently with the inauguration of an exhibition at the Catalonia Museum of Science and Technology, run by regional wind association EolicCat.

To connect the machine, Ecotècnia had to exploit a number of legal loopholes as the grid regulation back then provided no provisions at all for renewables -- other than Franco's hydro power colossuses. Since then, Spain has multiplied its installed wind capacity by more than a million times to nearly 17 GW mark. At Ecotècnia, cleaner shaven versions of most of the team photographed here remain in or attached to the company, which was bought by French multinational Alstom two years ago and is now manufacturing 3 MW machines.

Twenty-five years down the line, the EolicCat exhibition aims to rekindle local pride in wind power in a region where conservationist concerns have contributed to slowing development. Just 420 MW of wind capacity is online in Catalonia, placing it ninth among Spain's regional wind markets and laps behind regions like Galicia, Castile and León and Castile-La Mancha, each with over 3000 MW in operation.

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