This Nation of 10 Million People Just Ran Entirely on Renewable Energy for 149 Hours

paul da serra wind energy
Portugal Ran on Renewable Energy For Nearly a WeekCícero Castro - Getty Images

"Hearst Magazines and Yahoo may earn commission or revenue on some items through these links."

  • For the world to avoid the worst outcome of human-induced climate change, countries need to transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy as soon as possible.

  • For 149 consecutive hours in November, Portugal provided a stunning example of what that could look like, as it used a mix of solar, wind, and hydropower to provide more clean energy than the entire country needed.

  • The nation has plans to upgrade its wind turbines, expand its solar capacity, and close its last gas-powered plants.

The world desperately needs to transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy as quickly as possible. While some small countries have made the green energy leap, for many large nations, it’s an unfortunately slow-going process—too slow by most scientists’ measure.

However, for one week in November, the country of Portugal bucked the trend by running entirely on renewable energy. Producing 1,102 GWh (according to the national grid operator Redes Energéticas Nacionais) for both industrial and residential use, the country’s renewable energy sources—a mix of wind, solar, and hydropower—provided 262 GWh more than was needed.

This exceeds the country’s previous record—it ran for 131 hours on renewable energy back in 2019—and for 95 hours during this recent test, Portugal even exported its excess clean energy to Spain. Although the country’s gas plants were on standby, Portugal’s renewable infrastructure proved to be more than up for the task.

The test, which ran from 4 a.m. local time on October 31 until 9 a.m. on November 6, proved just how effective the climate policies of one of the greenest members of the European Union have been. Portugal first began building onshore wind turbines back in the 1990s, and in 2016, the country set its own goal to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050—three years before the rest of the EU. It also pledged to shut down all of its coal plants by 2030, which it managed to do a full nine years early. Portugal is also home to Europe’s largest floating solar farm, built with 12,000 panels, and the county has pledged to double its solar and hydrogen capacity.

In other words, Portugal means business.

The country aims to get 85 percent of its energy through renewable sources by 2030, but doing so won’t be easy (despite this recent feat). This is in part because much of the prime offshore locations for wind energy are already occupied. However, many of the old-time turbines could be replaced with newer ones to could provide a significant wind power increase, according to Canary Media.

This 149-hour, record-breaking run is certainly impressive, but it did benefit from a seasonality advantage. Because the test was conducted in mid-autumn, the grid didn’t have as high a heating or cooling demand as it would usually experience in the summer and winter months. It’s one thing to provide enough energy during the relatively mild seasons, but it would be another thing entirely to provide a continuous flow of electrons during a heat wave or a cold snap.

Portugal’s 149 hours of renewable bliss is a hopeful vision of the future for a fossil fuel-weary present. Humans can adapt to the climate challenges that face us—we just have to do it one renewable megawatt at a time.

You Might Also Like