Power places - 3. Castile and Leon

WORLDWIDE: Sometimes, a few words go a long way. Although Castile and Leon offers no specific regional incentives, wind power here is officially deemed to confer public benefit - a factor that has propelled this vast, barren region into our top three. Should a landowner object to a wind power project or associated infrastructure, the regional government has the option to push the project forward, if it considers it to be in the public interest to do so.

This government backing is important. It has helped the sector grow. At the end off 2009, Castile and Leon was the Spanish autonomous region with the highest installed capacity, slightly ahead of neighbouring Castile La Mancha. There are more than 100 wind farms here and, according to one estimate, around 450 wind-related companies. The local content of installed turbines in Castile and Leon is high, at around 80%, which has contributed to a generally positive public attitude towards wind power development. The wind energy association of Castile and Leon estimates that, by 2012, 10,000 jobs linked to wind energy could exist in the region. This would account for 18% of the 56,000 projected for the whole country.

Public and government support may be crucial, but like other Power Places in Spain, the national framework is a key driver for development here. The main driver for wind power development in the Spanish regions has been, and continues to be, the national feed-in tariff system which incentivises the generation of electricity from renewable energy sources.
Additionally, there is a requirement across Spain to fulfil demanding European targets for renewable energy to help safeguard continued long-term support for wind energy.

Although the business and policy environment for wind in Spain continues to be relatively good, a number of obstacles have been thrown up in recent years. As the proportion of wind energy entering the grid grows - Spain has recorded instances where most of the country's entire electricity demand has been satisfied by wind power - so too does the risk of overloading. In 2009 Spanish grid operator REE ordered the temporary shutdown of turbines during a period of strong winds to secure the safety of the system. The operator had warned that the national electricity system is at risk when wind power provides more than 10GW - which is usually at times of the day when electricity demand is very low. Castile and Leon, along with the bordering regions of Castile La Mancha and Galicia, are the areas potentially most affected by this policy, as their installed wind power capacities are the highest.

Moreover, there has been much angst across Spain over the cap on installations imposed by the country's government. And the disquiet has hardly been eased by a decision to reduce incentives for wind power production in the country. Certainly, the cap and the reduction in the feed-in tariff may restrict wind power growth in Castile and Leon in the next few years.
For now, though, and probably for many years to come, this remains a premium wind region. This classic Spanish land of high mountains, endless plains and short, fiercely hot summers is one of the engine rooms for European wind. Despite the short-term difficulties Spain is experiencing, Castile and Leon is more than worthy of its place in our top three.

Castile and leon, Spain


FOR

  • Feed-in tariff
  • Ambitious renewables targets
  • Wind industry cluster
  • Public acceptance

AGAINST

  • Grid bottlenecks
  • Installations cap
  • Reduced incentives

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