Berlin, Germany – Spain's wind energy industry is happily spreading some good news to detract from a troublesome slowdown in the sector and uncertainty over future regulation: The country beat Germany to become Europe's leading producer of wind energy last year.
In 2010, electricity from Spanish wind farms reached 42,976 GWh, exceeding Germany’s output of 36,600 GWh for the first time ever, according to data compiled by the Barometer EurObserv’ER, a European Commission agency that tracks renewable energies. Spain and Germany were followed by the United Kingdom, France and Portugal as Europe’s five biggest producers of wind energy, the agency reported.
Noteworthy in Spain’s climb to the top of the EuroObserv’ER ranking is the fact that the country’s wind energy capacity last year, at 20,676 MW, was below that of Germany at 27,214 MW.
The Spanish Wind Energy Association AEE lists several reasons for the country’s leading position in the European wind energy market. Among them: Mother Nature. Unlike Germany, Spain experienced a year of high winds in 2010. Also contributing to higher output was the sector’s use of more advanced turbines, according to the association, which noted Spain’s late development of the wind energy market and thus access to the latest technology. The sector also benefited from a better system for integrating renewable energy into the national grid system, according to AEE.
In March, electricity output from Spanish wind farms reached 4,738 GWh, its highest ever monthly output: The capacity covered 21 percent of the country’s demand for electricity, ahead of nuclear at 19 percent and hydroelectric at 17.3 percent, according to data from Red Electrica de Espana, as we noted in an article on April 1.
But some harsh economic winds are blowing across Spain as well. New wind energy capacity in Spain slowed last year to 1,516 MW – an 8 percent increase over the previous year but its slowest growth since 2003.
For wind energy to continue its development and for Spain to meet the European Union target of renewables accounting for 20 percent of member-state energy consumption by 2020, the government will need to replace the current regulatory framework, which expires at the end of 2012, according to AEE. To that end, the association has been lobbying intensively for the government to base its planned new regulation for the wind energy sector on its current feed-in-tariff scheme, which the industry maintains has proven its effectiveness. Spain’s wind energy industry, AEE argues, needs to know the conditions to safeguard their existing and future investments.
To help the Spanish wind energy sector, which has seen an exodus of companies in search of new markets, AEE has collaborated with the Ministry of Industry and several other groups to produce business directory of home-grown companies in the sector. The directory provides information on more than 200 companies, including the country’s major turbine makers Gamesa and Acciona.