Wind power record in Spain: 53.7% of total electricity demand

Spanish electricity grid, Red Eléctrica, said that this record is a first since it was sustained over several hours. Between 03.00 and 08.30 on 8 November wind met over 50% of electricity demand. At their peak, wind farms were generating 11.5 gigawatts, or two-thirds of their theoretical maximum capacity of almost 18GW.

With high winds gusting across much of the country, Spain’s huge network of windfarms jointly poured the equivalent of 11 nuclear power stations’ worth of electricity into the national grid.

The surge in wind power triggered water pumping stations which transport water into reservoirs. This store of water will then be released over the day generating electricity via water turbines at times of peak demand.

The Spanish Wind Energy Association said the sustained peak in wind powered electricity production proves that “wind energy is no longer marginal”. By 2020 Spain is expected to double its wind-power producing capacity from the current level of 16 gigawatts to 45 GW.

Spain is the world’s third biggest producer of wind power, after the United States and Germany, with an installed capacity of 16,740 megawatts (MW) at the end of 2008, a rise of 1,609 MW for the year. On particular windy days, wind power generation has surpassed all other electricity sources in Spain, including nuclear.

José Donoso, head of the Spanish Wind Energy Association, recalled that just five years ago critics had claimed the grid could never cope with more than 14% of its supply from wind. "We think that we can keep growing and go from the present 17 GW to reach 40 GW in 2020."

By the end of the year, Spain will have provided a quarter of its electricity needs with renewables, with wind power leading the way, followed by hydroelectric power and solar energy.

Spain is the world’s third biggest producer of wind power, after the United States and Germany, with an installed capacity of 16,740 megawatts (MW) at the end of 2008, a rise of 1,609 MW for the year. The largest producer of wind power in Spain is Iberdrola, with 27 percent of capacity, followed by Acciona on 16 percent and Endesa with 10 percent.

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. The intended wind energy capacity to be installed in the autonomous regions by 2010-2011 consists of 20,000 MW.

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.

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.

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.