Regulation holds back pioneering wind-hydro project

SPAIN: An 11.5MW wind power-hydroelectric hybrid power station on the Canary island of El Hierro has been completed but is unable to enter service due to regulatory changes.

The Hierro project mixes wind with hydro power
The Hierro project mixes wind with hydro power

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A statement from the project developer and operator Gorona del Viento said a new law in July, ushered in by decree by Spain's government, put the plant's ownership into question. The statement did not specify why this was the case.

However, sources close to the project confided it was partly because the new regulation could force the plant operation contract to enter a tariff auction. Gorona, which aims to operate the plant itself, denied that was the case.

The July law ended feed-in tariffs for wind on mainland Spain. For the Canaries, however, where wind is cheaper than conventional power, the law maintains the possibility of a feed-in tariff auction for new projects, though terms are yet to be specified in a concrete regulation.

Gorona did admit complications could rest in the current drafting of new regulation regarding ownership and control of pump hydro power on the Canary Islands.

Gorona uses power from five 2.3MW Enercon wind turbines, to pump water to a hydro deposit 1000m above sea level for use in an 11MW hydro station, capable of producing 80% of the island's power requirements. The plant is now in cold storage pending the finalisation of regulation and ownership.

"We will do everything in our power to make sure ownership stays in the hands of Gorona del Viento," said the developer statement.

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