Geography of Spain
More than 60% of the boundary of Spain is surrounded by water, while the rest is surrounded by land. A study of the geography of Spain shows that the major part of Spain is surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea, which starts from the border of France in the east to Gibraltar in the south. The Atlantic Ocean covers the northwest and southeast boundaries of Spain and in the middle portion between these two ends, at the western boundary of Spain, lies the land of Portugal. The total northern boundary of Spain is also surrounded by a water body called the Bay of Biscay. The northeastern boundary of Spain is enclosed by countries such as France and Andorra.
The geography of Spain shows that the country is broadly divided into four parts: the various mountain ranges, the central plateau with the mountains surrounding and intersecting the plateau, the low lying plains and the two set of islands. Spain has several rivers flowing throughout the state, though many of these are short and measure less than 100 kilometers. The majority of the rivers originate from the mountains associated with the Meseta Central Plateau and flow towards Portugal. The primary rivers that are part of the geography of Spain include: Ebro, Tagus, Duero, Guadiana, Mino and Guadalquivir. Out of these rivers Guadalquivir is the only one which helps in irrigating the major agricultural land in central Spain.
The Meseta Central Plateau occupies the major central part of Spain. It is on the same plateau where Madrid, the capital city of Spain, sits. The Meseta Central plateau is divided into northern and southern regions by the Sistema Central Mountain range, which stretches up to Portugal in the west, a significant aspect of the geography of Spain. The city of Madrid is surrounded by the Sistema Central Mountains with several of the range´s highest peaks located in different directions enclosing the city. The highest peak is more than 2500 meters high, and is located to the west of Madrid. Apart from the Sistema Central Mountains, other mountain ranges that encircle the total Meseta Central plateau include Sierra Morena, the Cordillera Cantabrica, and the Sistema Iberico mountains.
There are other prominent mountains that are part of the geography of Spain. There are the Pyrenees Mountains in the northeast, which form a boundary between Spain and its neighboring countries like France and Andorra. The Pyrenees has several peaks that have an average height of 3000 meters. The highest is around 3400 meters tall. The Sistema Penibeticoother Mountains are located in the southeast of Spain, while the other snow covered mountains can be found in the Sierra Nevada in Andalusia area of Spain. It is a famous skiing destination and has the tallest peak in Spain, which measures nearly 3500 meters.
Spanish Solar Power
Largest Power Plant
Spain is known for its commitment to develop renewable and non-polluting sources of energy. Recently, the country has successfully amazed the world by building the world´s largest solar power plant in the Andalusian desert just outside Seville. The power plant consists of a concrete building that is 40-stories high, a field of 600 sun-tracking mirrors, and a receiver that converts concentrated solar energy from the heliostats into steam that eventually drives the turbines.
The power plant, which is known as PS20 and was developed by Abengoa, started operating in January. Since then, enough Spanish solar power has been generated to run 6,000 homes. The ultimate aim is to provide power for all of the 600,000 people that live in Seville. Compared to the traditional solar trough technology, solar tower technology is still in its initial stages, and this tower plant will be a significant proving ground.
Another striking example that proves the Spanish commitment to solar power was created when the Spanish town of Santa Coloma de Gramenet placed more than 450 solar panels on top of mausoleums at its cemetery to generate power. Flat, open land is not abundant in this part of the country, so the town decided that the graveyard was the only viable spot to place the panels. The panels provide enough electricity to power 60 homes. They rest on mausoleums holding five layers of coffins. Initially residents could not reconcile themselves to the idea, but town hall and cemetery officials launched a campaign, erected the panels at a low angle, to make them as unobtrusive as possible.
Some of the reasons responsible for the fast-faced development and implementation of Spanish solar power are the weather, the economic scenario and government legislation. Spain has clear skies and strong sunshine; in fact, it has more sunshine than any other European country. There is a high demand for air conditioning. There is increasing awareness about building insulation and the use of daylight. The Spanish government is committed to paying feed-in tariffs up to triple the market price for twenty five years in order to endorse solar energy. New building laws make mandatory the use of solar hot water and photovoltaic cells.
Spanish solar power is gradually moving in favor of solar tower technology, also known as CSP (Concentrated Solar Power), because it is seen to be simpler, cheaper and more efficient than the more traditional methods. More than fifty similar projects have been approved by the government, and the target is to generate more than 2GW of power from CSP by 2015. Spanish solar power technologies are also exporting their technology to Morocco, Algeria and the U.S. 80% of Spanish solar power is exported to Germany.
Spanish Wind Power
Pioneering the Industry
Spain is one of the leading nations that have implemented several manufacturing plants that specialize in wind power to save the earth from global warming caused by to the use of fossil fuels in generating electricity. Wind power, or power derived by converting wind energy into a useful form, such as electricity, has captured the imagination of the environmentally-conscious because it is a form of renewable energy that utilizes local resources and reduces greenhouse-gas emissions. Spain ranks third in the world for overall installed power, only behind Germany, which occupies second place, and the United States which is the worldwide leader.
In fact, wind supplied 10% of all Spanish electricity in 2007. On one record day, March 4, 2008, gusts raging across the country provided 28% of the country´s total electricity. On April 18, 2008 an all time peak was witnessed, with Spanish wind power providing 32% of the country´s power requirement. Spanish wind power industry currently enjoys a 30% annual growth rate. The country is aiming to triple the amount of energy it derives from renewable sources by 2020. Rapid expansion is possible due to encouraging government decrees. Spanish companies are required to purchase any Spanish wind power produced, and wind-farm operators can choose to receive a set price or sell their power on the market at reigning prices.
The Spanish wind power utility Iberdrola is the largest wind-power operator in the world, supplying more than 7,700 megawatts of power in nineteen countries. Endesa, another electric company and major wind-farm operator in Spain, built some of the earliest wind farms in the Canary Islands and in the region of Catalonia and Galicia. Another large wind-farm operator within Spain is Acciona, which is also one the top ten turbine manufacturers in the world. The largest turbine manufacturer in Spain, and the second largest in the world, remains Gamesa. 500 Spanish companies now work in the wind-power sector, most providing services and equipment not only in Spain but around the world.
Several elements will determine the future course of Spanish wind power development: the power plant’s capability to harness electricity, the affordability of harnessing wind energy, and the environmental hazards of building more and more wind farms. Besides, a control center needs to be created to oversee all the Spanish wind farms. In July, the Spanish government approved the construction of offshore wind parks along the nation’s coastline. But bird lovers, fishermen, and tourism officials have opposed the move on the grounds that they will drastically disrupt the migratory patterns of birds, interfere with the animals’ geographic navigations, and ruin the beauty of being on the coast.