Wind power has lowered CO2 emissions by about 23 million tons in Spain

Such smaller growth was expected after the 2,461 MW increases in 2009 in which companies made a big effort to keep the planned number of wind farms after spectacular wind power capacity growth in previous years. The 20,676 MW of capacity establishes Spain as the fourth country in the world in terms of installed capacity and reaches the 2010 objective (20,155 MW set by the Renewable Energies Plan 2005–2010). The total electricity produced from wind turbines in Spain in 2010 reached 42,702 GWh.

The creation of the new mandatory Pre-allocation Register by the Spanish central government has operated as a bottle neck to 2010 wind energy sector deployment.

Because of this, the wind farm capacity increase has been moderate compared with the last few years. The addition of 1,515.95 MW in 2010 is an increase of 7.9%. Electrical energy demand in 2010 was 259.94 TWh, an increase of 1.01% from 2009. Wind energy met 16.4% of this demand and was the third largest contributing technology in 2010. Other big contributors to the system were gas combined-cycle power plants (24.85% of total demand) and nuclear power plants (23.74%).

Wind power is a driving force for industrial development in Spain. In 2010, investment was more than 1,400 million euro (1,882 million USD), and about 50% of Spanish wind energy equipment production was dedicated to the export market. But the Spanish Wind Energy Association (AEE) warns that a wind power industry slowdown will be caused by the Register of Pre-Assignment by the Spanish government. In addition to this new requirement, uncertainty has been introduced because no regulatory framework has been established beyond 2013.

Also, the economic crisis has caused the suspension of orders and the loss of jobs mainly in the industrial sector. In 2011, according to sector forecasts, the industry will only install about 1,500 MW, the lowest figure since 2000. The Register of Pre-Assignment limits new wind farm capacity to 3,000 MW during the biennium 2011-12. But possibly the worst news for the sector, whose projects take five to eight years to realize, is that after 31 December 2012, it is not known if facilities shall receive remuneration, which will slow the installation of wind farms for the future.

In conclusion, it will be necessary to clarify the future regulatory framework in the wind power sector without further delay if Spain is to reach 38,000 MW in 2020, the goal of the NREAP sent by the Spanish government in Brussels last June. 

The objective for 2010 established in the Spanish NREAP 2005-2010 has been reached and even exceeded. A new NREAP 2011-2020 is under development by the Spanish Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Tourism. The targets drafted in this plan were to add 35,000 MW onshore, with 34,630 MW for new large wind farms and repowering old wind farms and 360 MW for small wind (wind turbines up to 100 kW rated power) and finally 3,000 MW should be dedicated to offshore wind farms. This last figure is still under debate because of the difficulty to promote offshore wind farms in Spain. The difficulties include lack of adequate electrical infrastructure near shore, excessive requirement of permits, deep marine platforms required, low social acceptance, clash of interest, etc. The aim of this new plan is to meet at least 20% of total energy use from renewable sources by 2020.

The electrical generation capacity in the Spanish mainland system increased more than 3,717 MW during 2010 for a total of 97,447 MW according to the data of Red Eléctrica de España REE (the Spanish TSO). Wind power and gas combined cycle were the technologies that contributed most to this growth.

With more than 20,676 MW of wind power installed, more than 18,933 wind turbines are operating in Spain, grouped among 889 wind farms. The average size of an installed wind farm in 2010 was 26 MW. Wind energy is present in 15 of the 17 autonomous communities. Castilla–Leon has the most installed power among them, with 4,803.82 MW. This autonomous community has had the biggest growth with 917.02 MW added in 2010, and it has a wind farm capacity forecast of 6,898 MW including the wind farms already under construction once the administrative permit goes into operation.

Catalonia experienced 62.32% growth, the second biggest, with 326.87 MW installed in 2010. It has 851.41 MW of total capacity installed. The third biggest growth has been in Murcia with 24.69% (37.60 MW) reaching 189.91 MW. With only 6 MW of new capacity installed in 2010 in Castilla-La Mancha region, it stays in second place with total capacity of 3,709.19 MW.

This autonomous community approved a new so-called “wind decree” in 2010. It is similar to the regulation already approved in Galicia, which establish a new tax on wind farms developers (different tax depending on the number of wind turbines included in the wind farm) with the compensation based on territory and visual impact produced by the wind farms. The autonomous government estimates that during the first year of operation the permit fees will raise about 15 million euro (20.2 million USD).

Castilla-La Mancha is followed by Galicia, which added 54.8 MW for a total of 3,298.33 MW and Andalucía which added 139.41 MW for a total capacity of 2,979.33 MW. Only two autonomous regions, Extremadura and Madrid, have not yet installed any wind power capacity.

However, they have advanced projects and regulation to start wind energy activities, especially Extremadura region. It should be noted that unlike many other countries with significant wind power development, Spain has increased its distribution throughout the country. Use of wind power has lowered CO2 emissions by about 23 million tons just during 2010. Furthermore, wind turbines generation has saved up to 8.5 million tons of conventional fuels and has supplied the electrical consumption of more than 13.5 million households.

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