Still more Andalucia grid concessions -- Nearly 4000 MW lined up

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Grid connection concessions for another 1300 MW of wind power will be awarded in the huge Andalucia region of southern Spain before the end of the year, adding to the 2485 MW the regional government approved in late 2004. Lack of sufficient grid capacity in Andalucia has held up wind development for years, but with a grid zoning plan in place and project developers pooling resources to pay for network upgrades, the huge market is once again on the move.

Already 149 MW is building, equivalent to half Andalucia's existing installed wind capacity, most of which was built in the 1990s. Regional innovation and business minister Francisco Vallejo says Andalucia will exceed its 2700 MW wind target for 2006 and by 2008 will reach 4000 MW -- an objective set for 2010. On the way, the industry will create 17,000 jobs, Vallejo estimates.

The new connection concessions will be for three grid zones, known as the Zonas de Evacuación de Energía Eléctrica (ZEDEs), in the provinces of Huelva, Malaga and Cadiz. The ZEDEs, an initiative forged by the Andalucian government, the Junta, in 2003, cap new capacity in each zone according to the volume of wind power that national grid operator Red Eléctrica de España (REE) can take onto its system. Wind developers applying for connection in each ZEDE collectively undertake to pay for new lines and grid improvements in their zone.

Whether the wind picture is as bright for Andalucia as Vallejo contends is a matter of discussion. "We must not count our chickens," says Carlos Rojo of the Andalucian wind association, the Asociación de Promotores y Productores de Energía Eólica de Andalucia (APREAN). "The 150 MW currently building is a small step towards objectives. We still have to build the feed-in lines, grid reinforcements and wind farms."

APREAN says a lack of co-ordination between government departments makes project processing "tediously slow." If the Junta steps in to fast-track processing, Rojo believes most plant with concessions could be built by 2008. "But meanwhile, other Spanish wind regions are taking up available capacity in the national grid," he warns. "We could find the amount left vastly reduced if we don't act quickly."

Rafael Palomino of wind consultancy Private21 sees little getting in the way: "Most projects are mature with licenses lined up. And pre-agreements between town halls and ZEDE developers exist for building new lines in most municipalities." Developers have also agreed on how to pay for infrastructure and are pledging EUR 60,000 for each megawatt of wind under development, says Palomino. "More importantly, there is solid action on the grid, the main hurdle," he adds. Private21 co-ordinates negotiations between developers and REE in each ZEDE.

In Cadiz province, a regional engineering contractor, Idon, has already finalised the technicalities for grid connecting the 775 MW of new wind to go up in the Arcos ZEDE. A new substation in the province is already being built by REE. Work is also imminent on a new 70 kilometre line for the 700 MW Tajo de Encantada ZEDE, covering Malaga province.

Proceeding apace

REE still needs to allocate many connection points and approve lines, but Palomino sees no reason why the current pace should not keep up. "Maybe around ten per cent of small, isolated wind projects in each ZEDE have more complex and long winded solutions," he says. "But the bulk will be completed, probably around mid-term 2007," he adds, referring to last year's concessions for 2485 MW.

Of these, over half have gone to the region's top five developers, with the rest shared out among 30 companies. Gamesa leads with 434 MW, not counting its 70% acquisition of local outfit Sistemas Energéticas del Sur, which landed 91 MW. Spain's top utility, Endesa, has 224 MW and local developer El Marquesado Eólico 196 MW. Utility Iberdrola, in conjunction with P&T Tecnologia, has 171 MW. Last but far from least, DESA, the Spanish wind affiliate of Dutch utility Nuon, clinched 343 MW. DESA, recently put up for sale, was an early player in the Andalucian market long before its purchase by Nuon.

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