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Power places - 9. Galicia

WORLDWIDE: The eight historic Celtic nations, of which Galicia is one, all border an ocean that provides many wind farm owners with a livelihood - the mighty Atlantic. This is not the Spain of cheap package tours, baking summer heat and monotonous blue skies; on the contrary, Galicia is a summer holiday destination for many Spainards seeking to escape the oppressive heat in the country's parched interior. Galicia's proximity to forceful ocean breezes helps endow this Spanish autonomous region with the best wind resource in the country.

In winter, Atlantic fronts create south-westerly winds that are strong and constant. During summer, the Azores High - an area of high pressure centred on the Portugese Islands to the south-west of Galicia - forms. Winds move clockwise around the high in an anticyclonic pattern that delivers summer breezes to Galicia. These are usually light but can pick up at times. Galicia's rugged, craggy topography helps, too - the regional wind power association says tunnelling through natural channels in the landscape helps boost wind above official measurements.

It was these natural advantages of its oceanic climate that led Galicia, along with Navarra, to be a pioneer region for Spain when the country was taking its early steps into wind power. Today it is no longer the leader, but still boasts the third-highest installed capacity of any region in the country.

The economic development benefits that the wind sector brings have been a strong driver for the industry. Galicia, as with some of the other leading regions in wind power development, has a strong local-content policy to ensure investment in its region.

Galicia's wind energy plan, which came into effect in 2004, stipulates that 70% of all turbine components must be sourced locally. Whatever the economic rights and wrongs of such a policy, it has nonetheless proved effective. As a consequence of national and regional policy, most of the 76 production facilities related to the wind industry in Spain are concentrated in Galicia, followed by other northern regions and Castile La Mancha, in the centre of the country.

The main catalyst 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, the requirement to fulfil ambitious European targets for deployment of renewable energy by 2020 is expected to help secure continued long-term support for wind energy. However, the Spanish government has recently announced its intention to cap installation levels and reduce incentives until the end of 2012 - a move that might threaten this positive outlook.

Grid integration of variable wind power is an increasingly important goal as Spain becomes ever more reliant on wind power. However, a potential obstacle emerged in 2009 when strong winds caused the national grid operator, REE, to take a number of turbines offline temporarily to safeguard the grid against overloading - deemed to be a risk when wind power provides more than 10GW, which is mainly in low-demand hours. Galicia, Castile and Leon, and Castile La Mancha are potentially among the areas most affected by this policy, as their installed wind power capacities are the highest. Yet despite the recent rocky ride, Galicia continues to be a major player in Spain and, indeed, the world.

Galicia, Spain

FOR

  • Feed-in tariff
  • Ambitious renewables targets
  • Wind industry cluster
  • Regional government support

AGAINST

  • Grid bottlenecks
  • Installations cap
  • Reduced incentives

Return to overview

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