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Power places - 2. Castile La Mancha

WORLDWIDE: Nine months of winter and three months of hell. That is how Castilians describe the climate in their ancient region. The region's altitude and southerly latitude contrive to give this part of Spain rather inhumane weather. But Castile La Mancha's topography, while not the world's best in wind terms, has enough good sites for the wind industry to have thrived here for decades.

Indeed, if Power Places were based on the historic region of Castile, it would boast a greater total installed wind capacity than any other region in Europe. As it is, Castile's two modern incarnations, Castile and Leon and Castile La Mancha, and have to settle for spots three and two respectively. Yet, despite being marginally the junior Castilian partner in terms of totalled installed capacity by end 2009, Castile La Mancha pips its neighbour into second place in our league courtesy of a Power Places factor one point higher due to its greater capacity per head.

The wind power industry here benefits from the strong backing the regional government gives to renewable energy. One estimate says that 70 per cent of the regions household electricity needs are currently satisfied by renewable energy. No-one could ever accuse the regional administration of being unambitious - it has an official target to make that 100 per cent by 2012.

This positive outlook has helped encourage the growth of the sector here. Indeed, during the recent world recession, which saw unemployment spike in the usually prosperous lands of western Europe, the renewable energy industry in Castile La Mancha has been revealed to be a robust sector. A raft of companies have established operating and production bases in the region, including Iberdrola Renewables, GE, and Danish wind turbine giant Vestas, creating hundreds of jobs in the region.

As with neighbouring Castille and Leon, and indeed fellow Spanish Power Place, Galicia, Castile La Mancha benefits from Spain's national framework for renewables. The main driver for wind power development in the Spanish regions has been, and continues to be, the national feed-in tariff. This offers incentives to those who generate electricity from renewable energy sources. And, as with its peers, Castile La Mancha benefits from Spain's requirement to fulfil ambitious EU targets for renewable power installation, to ensure continued long-term support for wind power.

But Spain's growing fleet of wind turbines is beginning to pose logistical problems. Grid integration is a key challenge here. As on-grid wind farms proliferate, so too does the risk of overloading the network when winds blow strong and there are too few people awake to use the power. Last year, the Spanish grid operator Red Electrica de Espana (REE) ordered that turbines be taken offline, to secure the safety of the system during periods of strong winds. REE said there is a risk to the electricity system when wind power provides more than 10GW. This usually occurs at times of the 24-hour cycle where demand is very low. Castile La Mancha, along with fellow Spanish Power Places Castile and Leon and Galicia, are most acutely affected, as their installed wind power capacities are the highest.

Moreover, the recent announcement by the Spanish government of its intention to cap installation levels and reduce incentives until the end of 2012 threatens the traditionally wind-friendly policy regime. For now, though, this is southern Europe's number one Power Place, and number two in the world.

Castile la Mancha, Spain


FOR

  • Feed-in tariff
  • Ambitious renewables targets
  • Regional government support

AGAINST

  • Grid bottlenecks
  • Installations cap
  • Reduced incentives

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