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By Julian Spector
One recent autumn afternoon, I watched the Atlantic gusts collide with the cliffs that rise above Nazaré, Portugal. Rain pelted down, and the world-renowned swells rose into walls of water that even the most death-defying surfers reach only via Jet Ski. For me, this looked like a rained-out, late-season beach getaway, but for the sliver of Iberia that is Portugal, it looked like a bright future. That weekend, the nation of 10 million ran on nothing but wind, solar and hydropower.
As it turned out, those rainy, blustery days were just a warmup. Portugal produced more than enough renewable power to serve all its customers for six straight days, from October 31 to November 6.
“The gas plants were there, waiting to dispatch energy, should it be needed. It was not, because the wind was blowing; it was raining a lot,” said Hugo Costa, who oversees Portugal for EDP Renewables, the renewables arm of the state utility, which was privatized in 2012. “And we were producing with a positive impact to the consumers because the prices have dropped dramatically, almost to zero.”
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