Wind and nuclear will reduce pollution -- Lifting the Spanish policy veil

Wind power in Spain "will be pushed to the maximum" says industry minister Jose Montilla, confirming that the 13,000 MW cap placed on wind in the name of grid stability will be lifted. Spain has well over 7000 MW of wind operating today, but Montilla believes the country can cope with about 20,000 MW by 2011. He made his statement last month at a wind seminar in Madrid, Wind Power With a Revised Renewables Promotion Plan.

More surprisingly, Montilla also revealed that the government plans to keep existing nuclear capacity running as long as possible. Prior to its electoral victory in March, the ruling Labour party, Partido Socilaista Obrera de España (PSOE), had promised to phase out reactors within 20 years. But nuclear poses no threat to wind, said Javier Garcia Breva of national energy efficiency agency, Instituto para la Diversificación y Ahorro de la Energía (IDAE). Together with wind, biomass and the replacement of coal with gas, nuclear will help reduce Spain's 80% dependency on fossil fuel imports, he said.

Breva believes the 20,000 MW wind target suggested by Montilla "could be higher or lower." At the seminar wind industry speakers and regional governments suggested 23,000 MW to 30,000 MW, while the established power sector remained silent. Also participating in the seminar were electricity regulator Comisión Nacional de Energía (CNE) and grid operator Red Eléctrica de España (REE).

The main hope

The revised Plan de Fomento de las Energías Renovables (PFER), together with the new wind target, will be enforced by the spring "at the latest," said Montilla. The PFER will retain Spain's 12% renewables commitment for 2010. "We won't reach the target without drastic action," said Breva. Soaring demand means raising existing renewables penetration targets by 22%, he said. While wind is surpassing PFER targets, other renewables are lagging and new green power is being outstripped by demand. "Wind is the main hope for breaching the gap and we cannot afford to wait for other technologies to take off," said Breva.

For its part, REE continued to voice its concerns about wind and grid stability. Wind is "unmanageable," said the company's Alberto Carbajo, and incentives to encourage wind output forecasting (Windpower Monthly, November 2004) would be "ineffective." REE is processing applications for grid connection of 51,000 MW of wind power.

From wind association Plataforma Eólica Empresarial (PEE), Fernando Ferrando said extensions to existing plant should be promoted. Larger turbines can now profitably exploit lower winds around existing plants, he said. Extensions would enable developers to use existing infrastructures, reducing installed capacity costs. Ferrando reckons the cap on existing sites will be raised following a joint exercise now being undertaken by PEE/REE on how wind plant output can be scheduled into the power supply system. He said extensions could amount to 3000 MW of new development.

Breva said the government's focus was onshore. IDAE, however, is pushing for a special offshore tariff "to give developers the right signal." PEE's Alberto Ceña saw the main thrust of Spanish offshore coming in around five years when prices had come down. Antonio Alarcón of the Spanish branch of German developer Umweltkontor vehemently disagreed. He said his five year old, 250 MW project off Cape Trafalgar is viable today and is scheduled for commissioning in 2007.