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Wind power capacity planned for Spain's northwestern seaboard has doubled to nearly 900 MW in just four months, making Galicia the hottest area of wind development in Europe.

According to Gestenga, a company which oversees development of the region's alternative energy resources, eight wind developers have received official endorsement for installation of 2479 turbines by the end of the century -- and this number is likely to increase in the coming weeks. Only in September, Gestenga had reported that just 420 MW were planned (Windpower Monthly, October 1994).

The initial list comprises US wind farm developers Kenetech and SeaWest, Denmark's Consolidated Investment and the Spanish firms Endesa/Made, Ecotècnia, Abengoa/Desarollos E—licos, Estudios Electricos y Energticos and Hidroener -- a newcomer on the market. Between them they are planning a total of 32 wind farms in 24 municipalities in Galicia's Lugo and Corunna provinces. The total installed capacity of the projects is estimated at around 880 MW. Overall capital investment is in the region of ESP 131,430 million and yearly production is currently estimated at 2,290,842 MWh.

"I told people until I was blue in the face that Galicia was the perfect place for wind and finally the penny has dropped," says Gestenga's Manuel Lara. "They took time to come round, but competition now is fierce." Lara believes that 50-70% of the projects will be realised by 2000.

Situated mostly at uninhabited cliff top locations around Galicia's rugged coastline, the planned wind farms would benefit from good wind speeds of around 8.5 m/s. Those in the interior would have slower speeds of around 5.5 m/s. A size cap on wind farms in Galicia currently limits each project to 200 turbines.

The foreign company with by far the most ambitious designs on Galicia is Kenetech of California. It has applied to install a total of four wind farms in Lugo province with a combined output of 280 MW, to be supplied by 793 of its 33M-VS turbines. Construction is expected to start in July. Kenetech is followed by Endesa, the Spanish utility, with 788 turbines (244.2 MW) in nine wind plant spread throughout the provinces of Lugo and Corunna. The utility, whose subsidiary Made will also be supplying turbines for developer Hidroener, plans to start building its first project in April. Third is Desarrollos Eolicos, SA, a subsidiary of the Spanish conglomerate Abengoa. It has plans for six plant with an output of 138.9 MW. Desarrollos Eolicos originally had plans for eight projects, but lost two of these to Endesa. Consolidated Investment's Spanish branch, Ecocentive España S.L., will be putting in 59 Danish Vestas 500 turbines; SeaWest's Spanish subsidiary (SeaWest España SA), 170 turbines from the range supplied by Bonus of Denmark (B-500, B-600 and B-750) and the Spanish firm Estudios Eléctricos y Energéticos S.A. says it will install ten Wind Eagle 300 turbines from the US. Hidroener, a local developer, plans to purchase 164 Made 330 machines for four parks in Lugo.

Although planning permission is still pending for the majority of the wind farms, it is a "fait accompli" situation, according to Lara. All requests for building permits have been channelled through his company which was specifically set up by the regional government of Galicia to promote alternative energy systems. Gestenga also acts as intermediary between the regional government and local authorities on the one hand and developers and manufacturers on the other.

"I do not foresee any problems right now," he says. "When drawing up plans for the wind farms, identifying locations and assessing the implications of possible impacts we ensured that no foresseable hiccups could arise by keeping as closely as possible to the technical and environmental specifications of the regional government. Now its up to the individual companies to sign up with the grid owners."

Grid contracts

Obtaining access to the grid and power purchase contracts should not be a problem, according to Lara. The grid, regionally run by the national Uni—n Eléctrica Fenosa and the trans-regional Barreras Electricas Galicia Asturiana power companies, is open to wind power development, he claims. "Connection is guaranteed by law and the recently introduced electricity law (see box) has hiked premium prices for wind power by an estimated 20% from about ESP 10/kWh to ESP 12/kWh. That ensures price stability for a minimum of five years. This gives banks, developers, promoters and distributors greater guarantees when signing contracts."

Although he points out that allowance must be made to accommodate possible withdrawals at this early stage, Lara firmly believes that development will not stop at 900 MW. He claims that at least another 150 MW is projected and could be added to the total over the next few months by new contenders. "Keen interest is being shown by the New World Power Corp and Zond Systems of the US, Fitchner GmbH and Hanseatische from Germany, the Danish Elsamprojeckt A/S and Nordtank Energy Group and the Spanish firm Gamesa," Lara says. "There is certainly room for more."

Limit proposed

Lara feels the Spanish landscape will not be overrun by the projects. "We first toyed with the idea of a 2000 MW limit," he contends. "But we saw this could turn certain regions with optimum wind velocity into Altamont Pass equivalents, which is something we would prefer to avoid. We have arranged development so as to avoid big clusters of wind turbines -- eyesores that certainly would not enhance the scenery. Development of optimum wind sites, sites with the best wind potential, is geared to an approximate 1000 MW ceiling, spread over several municipalities, lessening possible impact."

Lara is quick to assure, however, that there is no intention to cap wind power development. The intention is to encourage companies to look at sites with lower wind speeds, such as those in Pontevedra and Orense, Galicia's other two provinces . "This is what we are looking into now, from a technical, environmental and economic viewpoint," says Lara.

News of massive foreign investment in the Galician wind power market has not received a warm welcome from all sectors in Spain. The central government, despite favouring national companies by providing incentives and cash, still sees foreign developers as unfair competition, especially since they will get premium power payments, subsidised by the Spanish government. Industry officials are particularly irked by Kenetech's emergence as a major developer in Spain, where it is already well and truly entrenched with a 30 MW wind farm to come on line in southern Spain by June. "This company comes here with its megabucks, sinks them into one, two or three wind farms without offering an alliance to Spanish companies and reaps all the profits," says one key official who prefers not to be named. "Unfortunately, we can't do anything about it."

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