Hydropower, Project Development, Wind Power

Spain’s Wind Power Industry on a Roll

The Spanish wind power industry is on a roll. From just over 200 MW in 1997, the Spanish market has been steadily growing at annual rates of more than 30 percent. Last year Spain reached a record level of 2,065 MW installed, a 33 percent increase on 2003, taking the total to 8,263 MW. For the first time, this yearly growth in the Spain just barely outpaced Germany’s current yearly growth.

As a result of its continued success, the previous Government target of 13,000 MW installed wind capacity in 2010 has been updated to 20,000 MW in 2011. In 1999, the target was 8,900 MW by 2010, considered ambitious at that time. The Government’s new target would see wind energy supplying 15 percent national electricity consumption, up from 6.5 percent today. “It is a fact, not an aspiration or green dream, that wind energy is on track to be amongst Spain’s leading energy supply technologies”, said Corin Millais, CEO of the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA). “Installed wind capacity already exceeds nuclear and CCGT, and will this decade overtake coal and large hydro.” A new Electricity Act established a “Special Regime” for renewables, including wind, with guaranteed access to the grid and a premium payment for generated power. A series of subsequent adaptations to the regulatory framework has fine-tuned the payment mechanism, linking it more closely to the wholesale electricity trading. Wind energy in Spain has now entered a dynamic phase where the serious challenges that arise when wind energy becomes one of the main energy supply technologies need to be met. Current policy direction signals how an intermittent power source can be integrated into the electricity market in significant quantities. Predictability is the key to address intermittency at large penetration levels. To move towards 15 percent of the country’s power from wind energy will require a strategic grid framework. According to EWEA, this is currently being developed in partnership with the transmission operators, utilities, wind players and regional governments. “To dismiss wind energy as an expensive, niche green luxury, as many do, is to ignore what has happened in Spain, the world’s number one wind market”, said Millais. “The political drivers in Spain have largely been about economic development especially in the regions, creating jobs, competing in world markets, all against a background of surging energy demand, an increasing proportion of expensive energy imports, and recently a challenging Kyoto target. On all these points, wind is a winning choice”. More than 500 companies are now involved in the Spanish wind energy sector, with about 150 factories manufacturing turbines and their components across the Spanish regions. Including those indirectly employed in supplying components and services, the total number of jobs supported by Spain’s wind industry has reached more than 30,000. This is estimated to double to 60,000 by 2010 on reaching the new target. “In the energy world with its seductive array of proposed solutions – from clean coal to carbon sequestration to nuclear fusion – what convinces most, and what wind delivers, is proof, not promises”, said Millais.