Spain's southern region of Andalucía, a European wind power pioneer in the 1980s, has sprung back to life after the best part of a decade in the doldrums. Last year, it was Spain's top regional market, connecting 835 MW of new capacity, 137% up on the year before. "Now 1000-1200 MW of new capacity will be connected over 2008," says Carlos Rojo of Andalucia's renewables association, Asociación de Promotores y Productores de Energías Renovables (APREAN).
The Andalucian regional government, the Junta, is targeting 4800 MW of new wind power to 2013 and is currently readying the next public call for proposals, this time for 500 MW. "In all, it's the pay-off for long years regulating new development and planning new dedicated power lines," says Rojo.
The rebirth of the market started back in 2002 when the Junta decided all applications to build wind farms had to go back to the drawing board and be presented once more, but this time with a solution for providing the needed transmission wires to get the electricity to centres of pollution. Its mechanism for achieving that was to demand that applications for permits for thousands of megawatts of wind development be marshalled into specially created transmission development zones, or ZEDE's. Developers who made it through the application process -- among other things they were judged on how well their projects appeared in the landscape -- were then forced to pool resources with their competitors to pay for transmission wires.
While on average the new wind power megawatts now going up have taken ten years to process, Rojo admits that without the stringent ZEDE regulation and the government's strong-arm tactics, most projects had faced strangulation by red tape compounded by poor electricity infrastructure.
New power lines
Between 2004 and 2005, the Junta approved nearly 3500 MW for construction in addition to the 500 MW online or going up by the end of that year. Building started on new power lines, too. ZEDE's now ready with new wires in place are Arcos, in Cadiz province, with transmission capacity for 775 MW of generation and Guadalteba, in Malaga province, with 475 MW of capacity. The 375 MW Huéneja line in Granada province, is building. Another 275 MW in line is delayed along with new wires with capacity for generation from 460 MW wind plant across Huelva, though APREAN expects work to be complete by 2010. Lines are also being planned further east in Almería. The remaining permitted wind capacity will use existing available grid capacity across the region's eight provinces.
Rojo praises the Junta's increased support for renewables, especially its recently enforced energy plan to 2013, which extends the 4000 MW wind target for 2010 to 4800 MW for 2013. But with the EU now calling for 20% renewables use across the European common market by 2020, APREAN says it will now lobby the Andalucian Junta for a 7 GW or 8 GW target by the same year.
Well over half the approved wind capacity on it way belongs to a handful of top Spanish wind project developers, with the rest shared by around 30 smaller companies. Utility affiliate Iberdrola Renewables, already with 380 MW online in Andalucia, is leading the field, claiming it has 950 MW on the way to construction with more than 800 MW of that scheduled for connection by 2010. The company recently completed a 198 MW complex in Granada province.
Gamesa's wind project development division has over 400 MW building or lined up. Utility Endesa and wind plant owner Acciona, which controls the renewables assets of Endesa, are together also developing around 400 MW. Desarrollos Eólicos (DESA), the Spanish wind affiliate of Portuguese utility EDP, a major owner of wind plant in Europe and North America, clinched 343 MW over a year ago and has further permits pending.
The Junta's imminent 500 MW call for proposals is only open to revamped projects that were part of the 2600 MW developments discarded as a result of the ZEDE regulation. A points system will favour those projects providing local economic benefits, specifically those that plan a minimum investment in Andalucia of EUR 6 million in either turbine component facilities or in local research and development work. Companies are keeping their cards close to their chests about what they are planning in the province, though rumours are stirring that three of the largest wind turbine suppliers, Gamesa, Vestas and Suzlon, are soliciting developers to create Andalucian wind business consortiums.
An Andalucian base
While Spain has over 40 factories producing wind turbines or components for them, Andalucia hosts just one facility -- a spanking new turbine assembly plant opened by Eozen a year ago to produce a 1.2 MW model on licence developed by German company Vensys Energiesysteme (Windpower Monthly, April 2007). The factory makes blades too.
For Eozen, the region's chief attraction is Andalucía's seaport facilities for exports, a point unlikely to be overlooked by other manufacturers. Suzlon, still without a production facility in Spain, and Vestas, with several, are looking to expand sales both in Andalucía and across southern Europe. Domestic companies Gamesa and Ecotècnia are both developing assembly plants in Andalucía and both pin their respective manufacturing growth plans on exports. Neither has direct access to the Mediterranean as yet, unlike competitor Acciona Windpower, which operates a factory further up the coast in Valencia.
Last year, Andalucian newspapers revealed that negotiations were ongoing between German wind turbine manufacturer Siemens Energy and the town hall of Los Barrios, in Cadiz province, on the possibility of building a factory there. Adding credence to the rumour, Siemens sold wind turbines directly to Spain for the first time, sidestepping its Spanish licensee, Navantia. Fifty 2.3 MW machines were shipped to Andalucía for projects being developed by construction company ACS. While Rojo claims ignorance of such specific industrial plans, he says "the region is booming and we're preparing ourselves for lots of surprises."