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Wind curtailment shadow in Spain -- Record wind penetration levels

Good winds and relatively low demand meant that wind power could cover 40.8% of Spain's generation requirement early in the evening of the Saturday of the Easter weekend last month. The record penetration was achieved at 6 pm by 9862 MW of wind plant when the national load stood at 24,000 MW, reports system operator Red Eléctrica de España (REE). From Good Friday to Easter Sunday, the average wind penetration was 28%. The previous 28% spot penetration record was achieved less than three weeks earlier on March 4.

Last month, yet a new record was achieved early evening on April 18, when production from 10,880 MW of wind plant met 30% of Spain's electricity demand. During that day, wind was the second biggest electricity contributor, generating 213.2 GWh, or 28% of the load, compared with 217.7 GWh from gas plant. For wind power it was a 24-hour production record.

The production statistics "set a milestone for the diversification of electricity production in Spain," states national wind association Asociación Empresarial Eólica (AEE). But they also raise the spectre of wind plant output being curtailed under REE's supply security rules. During March, REE curtailed 2.5 GWh of wind power in all, mainly affecting wind stations with older turbines which, unlike the modern machines making up most of Spain's capacity, cannot be adapted to stay online during sporadic voltage dips caused by grid faults.

For the time being, curtailed production is "a drop in the ocean," says AEE's Alberto Ceña. But with Spain heading for 29 GW of wind power by 2016, up from the 15.5 GW online by end-2007, the problem could become serious. Ceña has called a new round of talks with REE to plan contingencies.

Earlier talks resulted in a requirement that 100% of Spanish wind power be operated through dispatch control centres by end-2007, providing REE with emergency override control of all wind capacity. Such measures have seen REE relax its 2002 rule restricting maximum wind penetration to 12%. "And look at us now, topping 40% with no restrictions," says Ceña.

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