In Spain, wind power represents about 19% of electricity consumption, and state plans plan to reach 34% by 2030, that is, a decade earlier than the world average. If these plans were fulfilled, it would become the main source of electricity generation.
Behind these figures lies an important commitment in technological innovation, which has made it possible to increase efficiency and reduce costs. Since 1990, the size of wind turbines and wind farm capacity factors have tripled, while generation costs have been reduced by 65%.
“It is now more profitable to build a wind farm than a thermal power plant,” says Juan Virgilio Márquez, general director of the Wind Business Association (AEE). Far from having hit the ceiling, Virgilio Márquez points out that “there is still a lot to say to the wind energy sector, with even larger and more powerful wind turbines and more efficient generation plants.”
For wind power to supply 34% of the demand for electricity, as provided for in the Spanish Government’s plans, it is necessary to “double the generation park, move from the current 24,000 megawatts installed to 50,000 megawatts in 2030 ”, Says José María González Moya, general director of the Association of Renewable Energies (Appa). In this sense, González Moya warns that “in the last year 550 megawatts of the 4,600 megawatts of the energy auctions of the years 2016 and 2017 have been launched, so that for now we are far from complying with the state plans”.
Wind turbine towers are getting taller and more powerful. But not only because of this it is a renewable energy of high flights. Its role in the supply of electricity could be nine times greater in the year 2040, to supply around 34% of the world’s electricity demand (compared to the current 4%), according to a recent study on this energy source by KPMG on request from manufacturer Siemens Gamesa.
As for the existing park, more than 8,000 megawatts have exceeded 15 years of useful life and about 2,000 megawatts are close to exceeding them, which could be said that the sector has reached maturity 20 years after the start of the first wind farms in the country. 20 years is precisely the warranty time offered by the manufacturers, although its real useful life may be another decade, says the CEO of PREPA.
At this point, there are two options, according to the experts consulted: extend their useful life by investing in maintenance or opt for repowering, which consists in replacing the old wind turbines with new ones and of greater power. The person in charge of Appa affirms that, “in general, the Spanish parks are well conserved and there are less cases in which the repowering is chosen due to their greater complexity and the few existing incentives”.
Achieving generation objectives would also be a boost for the economy as a whole. González Moya estimates that jobs related to the sector would double up to 50,000, while the KPMG study forecasts an additional GDP growth of 0.3%.