Amid the worst European drought in 500 years and an epic energy crisis across the continent, Spain is being forced to close one of its largest hydropower stations. Even before the power plant closes, Spain has already halved its hydropower output this year due to the drought and with the Mequinenza facility in the northeast set to stop power generation in mid-November, things could get even worse. The facility is being forced to close due to waste levels dropping to 23 percent below capacity.
The hydropower plant has run continuously since it was opened and brought online in 1996. The closure comes as the facility struggles to release enough water to turn the plant's turbines to produce power. The week of November 1, the plant was operating at roughly 27 percent of its total capacity. The reservoir is at its lowest level since 1995.
With the loss of hydropower, which has fallen in Spain by a staggering 53 percent this year through October, the country is being forced to rely on natural gas to fill the gap between its other renewable energy sources like wind and solar power. Network operator, Enagas SA, shows that the demand for natural gas to be used to generate electricity has increased a drastic 78 percent through October.
According to Bloomberg, "A steep fall in renewable energy output is prompting the Mediterranean country to tap the fossil fuel to generate electricity at a time when Europe struggles with an unprecedented energy crisis following Russia's decision to cut supply, which pushed prices to a record high."
The hydropower plant closure comes as a bleak winter approaches during the worst energy crisis Europe has seen in a generation. Energy prices are soaring out of control in the UK and driving people to protest in the streets by tearing up their energy bills. Restrictions on burning trash in homes are being lifted in Poland to help people heat their homes, and Germans have been panic-buying electric heaters for months. Meanwhile, in Spain, the natural gas demand is the highest it's been since 2019.
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