The large national utility, Iberdrola, owns 50% of EEE. The other 50% is owned by the Navarra-based renewables giant Energia Hidroelectrica de Navarra (EHN). The turbines are supplied by Gamesa, which is the Spanish manufacturer of Vestas turbines. Iberdrola also owns 50% of Gamesa. EEE has already erected 108 turbines, and 96 of them are currently connected to the grid and undergoing trials. Once complete, the combined nominal capacity of the four wind plant will be 111.6 MW. This is equivalent to 15% of the electrical power consumed by the province's 163,000 inhabitants.
All four wind farms are generally referred to as Higueruela by EEE, the local authorities and the national press alike. However, the Higueruela wind farm, with a nominal capacity of 37.6 MW, is actually the largest of four separate plant. The other three are referred to as Virgen de los Llanos 1 and 2, each with a nominal capacity of 26.4 MW, and Cerro de la Punta at 24.4 MW. By splitting the entire development into four, each plant falls within the 50 MW limit, below which a fixed price of ESP 11.02/kWh (EUR 0.06/kWh) is guaranteed, in this case to be paid by Iberdrola.
The entire Higueruela development is part of EEE's massive two-phase wind project for the province of Albacete. The regional government of Castilla la Mancha approved the first phase at the beginning of June this year. The construction schedule is for installation of 400 MW by 2001, in which EEE will invest approximately ESP 51,000 million (EUR 306.5 million).
The first 400 MW phase constitutes 11 wind farms in all, of which the installations in Higueruela make up the first four. Work on three of the seven remaining plants will start in September, in the nearby districts of Alpera (37 MW), Petrola (49.5 MW) and Corral Rubio (47.5 MW). Finally, the installation of the last four wind farms in the surrounding area will start sometime during the first quarter of 2000, adding a further 146 MW.
The Higueruela wind farm prompted the Castilian Junta, the regional government, to push through a law regulating new wind power installations. It came into effect on June 14 and requires all prospective developers to submit detailed strategic development plans involving, amongst other things, a thorough environmental impact study and a clear commitment to creating employment and wealth in the region.
Although this first phase of the EEE project was approved prior to June 14, thus excluding it from these regulations, negotiations between the local government and EEE, which have been in progress for the last two years, also involved a strong commitment to creating jobs and environmental care. Of the area's estimated total potential of 6000 MW (according to EEE studies) 51% (3600 MW) was discarded during negotiations for environmental reasons. Nevertheless, the speedy development progress is largely due to the lack of environmental obstacles in this vast, flat and arid terrain.
Furthermore, as EEE's Arturo Rodriguez points out, while Gamesa E—lica, which is based in the northern region of Navarra, is providing most of the turbine components, some of them are also being made in Castilla la Mancha. INAEL in Toledo is producing the individual 20 kV step-up transformer stations, for example, and ANRO, in Ciudad Real, and FAREMAG, in Albacete, are manufacturing the towers. Referring to the Higueruela project alone, the regional minister for industry and work, José Frenando S‡nchez B—dalo, said, "This project involves an initial investment of ESP 16,000 million (EUR 96.2 million) of which ESP 6000 million (EUR 36.06 million) have already been contracted to ten companies from this region." Meanwhile, the coffers of Higueruela's local town hall will receive ESP 60 million (EUR 360, 600) a year for land surrendered to EEE.
The second phase of EEE's wind power project is for a further 400 MW in Albacete between 2002 and 2005 with a view to generating the equivalent of almost 100% of the province's energy demands. The plan has already been submitted for approval within the framework of the new strategic planning requirements. Other developers have also submitted applications and a big question mark hangs over the issue of access rights to the 21 kilometres of interconnection line already installed by EEE.