Wind Power in Spain

Wind Power in Spain By Ignacio Cruz and Enrique Soria

The wind sector expected this growth after the 3,500-MW increase in 2007, a special year in which companies made an effort to start up the greatest number of wind farms so they could benefit from the previous support system. The total of 16,740 MW establishes Spain as the third country in the world in terms of installed capacity and will allow the 2010 objective (20,155 MW set by the Renewable Energies Plan 2005–2010) to be reached.

The addition of 1,609 MW in 2008 is an increase of 10.63%, the third highest increase in absolute terms in the short history of wind energy in Spain. The only higher annual increases were in 2007 (3,505 MW or 30%) and 2004 (2,297.51 MW or 37%).

Electrical energy demand in 2008 was 266,485 GWh, a growth of 1.21% over 2007. Wind energy met 11% of this demand and was the fourth largest contributing technology in the generation system, besting hydropower (7% of demand). The other contributors to the system were gas combined-cycle power plants (32% of total demand), nuclear power plants (20%), and coal power plants (16%).

On several occasions in 2008, wind energy covered more than 40% of hourly demand, and for several days it supplied more than 30% of daily electricity demand. For instance, on November 24, wind energy supplied more than 35% of the total electricity demand. And on several occasions, production of wind energy reached more than 40% of hourly demand.

Wind energy in Spain has also emerged as a driving force for industrial development. In 2008, investment was more than 2,250 million €, and about 50% of Spanish wind energy equipment production is dedicated to the export market. According to the “Macroeconomic Study on the Impact of the Wind Energy Sector in Spain,” the number of jobs related to wind power reached more than 40,000 in 2008. Of this total, the number of direct jobs in operation and maintenance of wind farms, manufacturing, assembly, research, and development is estimated at more than 21,800. The number of indirect jobs (linked mainly to components) is estimated to be more than 17,000.

Finally, it is important to point out the significant efforts of the industrial sector and the system operators to implement the new Grid Code (P.O.12.3). Due to their coordinated efforts, the impact of wind energy on system operation is smaller than expected. The regulatory systems have been able to regulate and optimize system management at very low cost.

National Objectives

The present objectives for 2010 for the promotion of renewable energies are contained in the Spanish Renewable Energy Plan 2005–2010 (PER). This plan is a revision of the previous version completed in 2002. The aim of this revision was to maintain the commitment to meet at least 12% of total energy use from renewable sources by 2010. It also incorporates other indicative targets (29.4% of electricity generated from renewable sources and 5.75% of transport fuel from biofuels).

For the wind energy sector, the PER objective implies reaching a capacity of 20,155 MW by the end of 2010. The 1,609 MW installed in 2008 confirms that the sector is strong and that this growth will be maintained or will increase in the next two years, reaching the total of 20,155 MW fixed as the objective according to PER. Figure 3 shows the annual cumulative wind capacity and the PER objectives for 2005 to 2010.

The strength of the wind energy sector and its continuous growth have created the expectation of new targets for the next term. There is consensus for fixing a new target of 40,000 MW by 2020. The installed wind power in Spain during 2008 implies a growth rate of 10.63%. The majority of the Autonomous Regions (that are responsible for regulating wind installations) have plans for reaching 41,000 MW between 2010 and 2020. Local governments see the need for this on the basis of energy pacification, local resource use, industrial development, and job creation in their zones.

The industrial sector participating in the Asociación Empresarial Eólica, or (Spanish Wind Energy Association) has established a new objective of 40,000 MW for 2020. It is conducting studies and developing strategies to reach that goal. Finally, the management and planning of the new Spanish target is designed to fulfill the new European Union objectives established during 2007—to supply 20% of the primary energy with renewable sources by 2020. Due to the solidity of the wind sector, it is likely that an important amount of the renewable objective will be covered by wind energy.

The installed electrical power capacity in the mainland generation system increased more than 4,200 MW during 2008 and reached a total of 89,944 MW according to the data of Red Eléctrica de España (the Spanish Transport System Operator [TSO]). Wind power, solar technology, and combined cycle are the technologies that contributed to this growth.

With more than 16,740 MW of wind power installed, there are nowadays more than 16,800 turbines operating in Spain. They are grouped among 733 wind farms. The average size of an installed wind farm in 2008 was 24 MW. Wind energy is present in fifteen of the seventeen Autonomous Regions. Castilla–La Mancha has the most installed power among them.

The region’s capacity breakdown shows that Castilla–La Mancha keeps its leadership with 3,415.61 MW (273.25 MW added in 2008), but the biggest growth in absolute terms is in Castilla y León, with 518.69 MW; that amount put the region in second place with 3,334.04 MW, ahead of Galicia (which ranked first two years ago), which had 3,145.24 MW. In percentages, Comunidad Valenciana has experienced the biggest growth, with 27.66%. With the 153.90 MW installed in 2008, it has reached 710.34 MW. Comunidad Valenciana is followed by Andalusia, which grew 24.17%, adding 349.45 MW to reach a total of 1,794.99 MW.

This places Andalusia ahead of Aragón, which is fourth with 1,749.31 MW. Only two Autonomous Regions, Extremadura and Madrid, have not yet installed any wind power capacity. However, they have advanced projects and It should be noted that unlike many other countries with significant wind development, Spain has increased its distribution throughout the country.

Use of wind power has lowered CO2 emissions by about 18 million tons just during 2008. Furthermore, wind generation has saved up to 6 million tons of conventional fuels. Wind production has supplied the electrical consumption of more than 10 million households.

Benefits to National Economy

The number of installations during 2008 demonstrates the maturity of the wind industry, which has been able to increase despite worldwide difficulties with the supply of wind turbines and components. Installing and operating wind plants to cover 11% of the Spanish electrical demand implies a huge accomplishment by the developers and manufacturers.

In 2007, there was a tendency to consolidate holdings. The largest companies had accumulated the farms they put into the network and some companies were being acquired by others. Nevertheless, new agents also appeared in the Spanish market as promoters and manufacturers.

In the ranking of wind farm owners, Iberdrola Renewables, the largest Spanish utility, has the largest accumulated capacity (4,602.35 MW) thanks to the addition in 2008 of 305.10 MW. Acciona is still in second place with an accumulated capacity of 2,698.84 MW. The most new capacity (321.50 MW) was added by ECYR (ENDESA), the company that owns a total accumulated capacity of 1,640.94 MW.

Several other organizations have installed wind power capacity during 2008. For instance, Energías y Recursos Ambientales (EyRA) installed 213.68 MW and reached the sixth position with 495.68 MW. Eolia Renovables installed more than 141 MW, supplying 8.8% of installed capacity.

Gamesa installed more than 50% of new capacity, according to the Spanish Wind Energy Association’s Wind Observatory, with more than 9,480 MW (including the subsidiary company MADE) in Spain, which consolidates its leadership among manufacturers. VESTAS, the second largest manufacturer, installed more than 15% of new capacity in 2008, adding 242.2 MW.

The number of wind turbines in Spain increased by more than 890 in 2008, and the total number of turbines is more than 16,000 units. The average size of a wind turbine installed in 2008 was 1.6 MW. Wind turbines operating in Spain show important seasonal behavior. Total electricity generated by wind farms was more than 31,100 GWh, and the equivalent hours at rated power were slightly higher than 2,000 hours for all of the wind farms. On 18 April 2008, new historic highs in wind power were recorded: 10,879 MW of instantaneous power, 10,727 MWh of hourly wind power, and 213,169 MWh of daily wind power (28.2% of the electrical demand for that day). On 24 November, wind power production supplied 43% of total demand.

The increasing use of large wind turbines (2 MW of nominal power), the increasing prices of raw materials, the shortage of main components, and the excess demand for wind turbines have increased prices for wind generators. The average cost per kilowatt installed during 2008 in Spain was about 1,400 €/kW.

National Incentive Programs

The promotion of renewable energies has been a stable national policy for several years. All political parties have similar policies regarding support of renewable energies. The main tools within this policy at a national level are:

• A payment and support mechanism enacted by the Parliament through Electric Act 54/1997: Producers of renewable energy sources are entitled to connect their facilities and transfer the power to the system through the distribution or transmission grid and receive remuneration in return.
• The Renewable Energy Plan, including midterm objectives for each technology (PER 2005–2010), and the tariff scheme are guaranteed until the fulfillment of targets.
• Royal Decree (RD) 661/2007 regulates the price of electricity from renewable sources in Spain. The new regulation has been in force since June 2007. Wind farm installations governed by previous regulations (RD 436/2004) had until January 2009 to decide whether they would continue to follow RD 436 or choose the new RD 661/2007.

To facilitate the integration of wind energy into the grid, supplemental incentives are based on technical considerations (reactive power and voltage dips). These incentives apply only for the existing wind farms; after January 2008 it is mandatory to satisfy Grid Code P.O.12.3).

Payment for electricity generated by wind farms in Spain is based on a feed-in scheme. The owners of wind farms have two options:

• A regulated tariff scheme: payment for electricity generated by a wind farm is independent of the size of the installation and the year of start-up. For 2009, the value is 78.183 €/MWh; the update is based on the Retail Price Index minus an adjustment factor.
• A market option: payment is calculated as the market price of electricity plus a premium, plus a supplement, and minus the cost of deviations from energy forecasting. There is a lower limit to guarantee the economic viability of the installations and an upper limit (floor and cap). For instance, the values for 2009 are reference premium 31.27 €/MWh, lower limit 76.098 €/MWh, and upper limit 90.692 €/MWh.

The feed-in scheme will be valid until fulfillment of the PER objective (20,155 MW) in 2010. An additional 2,000 MW are considered for repowering wind farms built before December 2001, and an extra bonus of 7 €/MWh is considered. In 2008, the electricity price reached 64.43 €/MWh.

R, D&D Activities

A new R&D plan was developed in 2008. This plan covers 2008 to 2011 for the R&D and technological program prepared by the Spanish national government. It is based on the national science and technology strategy instead of thematic areas as in previous calls. The ongoing PER 2005–2010 is making an exhaustive analysis of the technological innovation required to achieve its objectives. In the case of wind energy, the priority for the Spanish manufacturers is to make efforts leading toward the following goals:

• Develop advanced systems to control the quality of the power fed into the grid,
• Develop wind turbines with unit power outputs of more than 2 MW,
• Adapt high-capacity wind turbines to the more demanding technical requirements of offshore applications, and
• Implement demonstrations of offshore wind farms.

Within the basic research activity drive by the General Sub-direction for Research projects of the Science and Innovation Ministry, many projects have been proposed for the different Subprograms of the National R&D Plan:

• Subprogram of fundamental research projects (not oriented).
• Subprogram of fundamental research projects oriented to knowledge transfer.
• Subprogram of complementary actions for non-oriented fundamental research projects.
• Assistance for development and reinforcement to Results Research Transfer Offices.

It is important to highlight that most of the projects presented to this solicitation were focused on grid integration and control subjects. During 2008 the following projects were approved:

• Study of the effect of grid voltage sags on the operation of wind turbines. Leader: Polytechnic University of Catalonia.
• Wind farm with synchronous wind turbines connected in unity generation. Leader: University of Malaga.
• Stabilization of wind farms by the implementation of biomass plants. Modeling, simulation, and analysis of the techno-economic viability of this kind of hybrid system. Leader: Polytechnic University of Valencia.
• Development of advanced control techniques to improve the integration of wind energy converters into electrical distribution networks. Leader: University of Alcala de Henares, Madrid.
• Maximization of wind energy penetration in the electrical system by the participation of auxiliary services of the grid and the contribution to dynamic stability. Leader: University Carlos III, Madrid.
• Improving the stability of the electrical grid by the application of FACTS based on wind energy generators. Leader: Polytechnic University of Catalonia.
• Development of distributed measuring solutions for industrial monitoring based on the use of smart-sensor networks. Leader: University of Valencia.

The CENIT program carried out by the Center for Industrial Technological Development (CDTI) from the Ministry of Industry and Energy is another effort to increase R&D activities. It is a Spanish government project aimed at increasing investment in R&D for both public and private initiatives over the next few years, with the objective of reaching 2% of GPD.

The program started in 2006 and so far two projects have been approved: Windlider 2015 and Eolia. Windlider 2015 is an industrial research project led by Spanish turbine manufacturers Gamesa and Ecotecnia. Its objective is to keep Spain at the cutting edge of wind power technology. Specifically, the project involves the design of new high-power machinery. Windlider 2015 has received a grant of 13 million €, almost half of the 28.5 million € estimated total investment required. The project’s objectives are the following:

• Improve the design process of future turbines, reducing time to market and increasing maturity of the first series, considered vital to leading the market as of 2012;
• Boost Spanish-owned enabling technologies;
• Create a holistic simulation model that reproduces as faithfully as possible the behavior of future turbines and determines the effect of new configurations, new enabling technologies, and other factors on turbine performance;
• Deploy several midsize technological scientific infrastructures in Spain that permit experimentation at scales up to 5 MW with complete turbine prototypes and critical components (generators, gearboxes, converter, chassis yaw, etc.).

Another R&D project is Eolia, a consortium of 16 companies led by Acciona Energia. The project has been approved by the CDTI for a grant of 16.7 million €, not quite half the overall 33.9 million € estimated total investment required. Eolia includes 25 research centers and seven private companies subcontracted by the consortium. Its objective is to develop technologies enabling deployment of offshore wind plants in deep waters (over 40 m). The project’s research activities integrate a series of technologies, including energy (wind power and other electricity technologies) aquaculture, desalination, construction, naval and marine grid connections, and O&M technologies.

In the Program for the Promotion of Technical Research (PROFIT) the government makes calls for proposals for publicly funded projects aimed at encouraging private companies and other entities to adopt research and technology development activities. The program is in line with the objective established in the National Plan of Scientific Research, Development and Technological Innovation (National R&D and Innovation Plan) 2004–2007, in part dedicated to the promotion of technological research. The National R&D and Innovation Plan 2004–2007 set a series of objectives aimed at contributing to the general development of good relations among science and technology companies. The energy objectives of PROFIT are:

• To use R&D to guarantee economically viable and environmentally friendly energy supply, based on efficiency and quality criteria, employing conventional energy sources and introducing technologies to optimize their use, and
• To facilitate scientific and technologic resources contributing to the efficient and competitive deployment of renewable and emerging energy technologies, together with their improved integration within the electricity system.

During the 2007-2008 period, the following projects were approved:

• R&D project on an innovative foundations solution for deep-sea offshore wind turbines (from 30 to 60 m depth). Leader: Construcciones Especiales y Dragados S.A.
• Development of a pitch rotor control based on hydrostatic transmission. Leader: Hydra-Power S.L.
• R&D on the capacity to use tall buildings as wind energy production sites. Leader: Vallehermoso Promoción.
• Application of nanotechnology to improve the efficiency of wind farms. Leader: Maeco Eólica S.L.
• GAVEGE Project: R&D on a new, improved, and flexible mechanical system for different sizes and types of wind technology components. Leader: Etxe-Tar S.A.
• Development of a new automatic process for manufacturing flanges for the wind sector. Leader: Industrial Barraquesa S.A.
• New line of machines for high precision manufacturing of large-diameter cylindrical components for use in the aeronautical, wind, naval, and energy generation sectors. Leader: Danobat Scoop.

Finally, the PSE Projects are Strategic National Consortiums for Technological Research led by the industrial sector. In the field of wind energy, a project called Minieolica is developing to promote the Spanish small wind energy sector (new developments of turbines up to 100 kW). This project involves more than six manufacturers of small wind turbines and components, three engineering companies, five public and private research centers, three universities, and three end users. The 16 projects are organized in three main areas:

• Product development supporting manufacturers to develop new products. New designs will cover the needs of the market in the power range between 1 and 5 kW for urban and residential applications (innovative horizontal- and vertical-axis wind turbines) and from 20-kW and 100-kW very reliable, robust, and efficient newly designed small wind turbines for residential, industrial, and agricultural applications.
• Technical development breaking technological barriers and advancing technological development in key areas for small wind turbines.
• Infrastructure development activating and supporting the small wind turbine sector. The objectives of this area are promotion, dissemination, sensitization, and information collection for the small wind turbine sector.

The Spanish Wind Power Technological Platform REOLTEC has an important role in the coordination and definition of Spanish R&D activities in wind energy. REOLTEC was created with the support of the Spanish Ministry of Education and Science as a place for exchange of ideas among all Spanish R&D entities to define priorities. In addition, it establishes procedures for optimizing the acquisition of forecasted results, and it establishes the priorities in wind energy R&D to advise the government. Those priorities are studied by working groups that focus on wind turbine technology, wind resources and site assessment, Grid Codes, certification and standardization, offshore wind farms, applications, environmental affairs, and social acceptance studies.

The Next Term

Expectations for the Spanish wind energy industry for 2009 are very high. It is likely that by the end of the year, 18,500 MW of total capacity will be installed. This amount represents more than 90% of the objectives defined in PER 2005–2010, which established a target of 20,155 MW by the end of 2010. Only funding problems related to the financial crisis could affect reaching the target. However, when the target is reached, a revision of the tariff scheme will be in order.

Electricity prices seem likely to be flat in 2009 and may not exceed 80 €/MWh (especially if the contribution of hydropower to the system continues increasing and oil prices do not increase too much).

During 2009, installation costs are expected to be as in 2008. The global wind energy market has continued to evolve, and no important shortage of components and materials is expected that could influence this.

One of the main challenges for the industry in 2009 is to complete the regulations for the Grid Code. Grid management has been reformed, and every wind farm is assigned to a control center, which makes the feed-in more transparent. With a joint effort of the transport system operator, utilities, and the wind energy sector, wind parks will continue to increase their contribution to meeting electrical demand.

Among new technological developments are two 3-MW-rated power wind turbines under test by Alston-Ecotécnia and Acciona Wind Power, another being designed by MTorres, and a brand-new 5-MW wind turbine from Gamesa.

In relation to small wind, several new manufacturers are developing wind turbines from 3 kW to 100 kW for grid connected applications, and two manufacturers are working on new wind turbine prototypes in the range from 150 kW to 300 kW. New fee-in tariff for small wind is under discussion.

A new Renewable Energy Plan is being studied by the authorities to include the objectives of the European Union for 2020. A realistic estimate for wind power in Spain is that 40,000 MW of onshore and 5,000 MW of offshore wind capacity could be operating by 2020, providing close to 30% of Spain’s electricity.


(1) THE SPANISH RENEWABLE ENERGY PLAN 2005–2010, Instituto para la Diversificación y Ahorro de la Energía (IDAE; Institute for Diversification and Saving of Energy) July 2005.
(2) WIND POWER OBSERVATORY. 2008, Asociación Empresarial Eólica (AEE; Spanish Wind Energy Association). January 2008.
(3) THE SPANISH ELECTRICITY SYSTEM. PRELIMINARY REPORT 2007, Red Eléctrica de España. REE. December 2007.
(4) REOLTEC. Spanish Wind Power Technological Platform II General Assembly.

Authors: Ignacio Cruz and Enrique Soria Lascorz, CIEMAT, Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation, and Asociación Empresarial Eólica (AEE; Spanish Wind Energy Association), Spain.