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Authorities in Spain's power-poor Navarra region hope to glean almost half the population's electricity needs from wind power by the first decade of the coming century. The scheme has been described as the most ambitious of its kind in Europe, if not the world.

Involving some 16 wind farms scattered across Navarra's 10,500 square kilometre territory, the project is an up-scaled version of a 100 MW scheme announced last summer (Windpower Monthly, July 1994). The revised plan will put six times that amount in the ground by the year 2010 at an initial investment of some ESP 100,000 million.

According to the promoter, a consortium of companies grouped under Energ’a Hidroeléctr’ca de Navarra (EHN), including the regional government (38%), the Iberdrola power company (37%), the Cementos Portland company (15%) and a local bank (10%), the project will allow the citizens of Navarra to generate up to 45% of their total electricity requirements.

Currently, the region -- with a population of half a million -- generates only 12% of its own power, well below the national average of 36% and the EU mean of 53% for individual regions. According to EHN, if final approval comes through later this year, the 600 MW will be supplied by a projected 1000 turbines in the 500 kW size range and the likelihood is that Gamesa E—lica, a newcomer on the wind power scene in Spain, will be building most, if not all, the machines.

This company, part owned by the utility Iberdrola, reached an agreement last year with Vestas to build the Danish company's turbines in Spain as part of a joint venture deal struck after protracted negotiations. Part of that deal involved the import of six entirely Danish built turbines that are up and operating in Navarra's Monte Perd—n area since February as part of a pilot project to test the viability of the overall scheme.

The Spanish Vestas turbines are to be built at a factory in Navarra, with Gamesa E—lica eventually producing up to 80% of the content of each machine, including towers and electrical systems. Vestas will supply the remainder from factories outside Spain.

Hugely ambitious

Given the magnitude of the project and Navarra's bid to become a semi self-sufficient energy producer, the scheme stands to become one of the most ambitious wind power projects ever embarked on. It also unites economic, social and environmental concerns in a single enterprise, creating at least 200 stable jobs, allowing the government to cut back on costly power imports and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. But it also has its detractors.

The scheme angered firmly established domestic firms when it was first announced last year and central government energy agencies felt snubbed. They groused about the fact that EHN was seeking abroad what they argued could be obtained at home. Other sources claim Navarra's wind resources might not meet expectations.

Spokesmen for EHN, however, retort that the Vestas 500 kW is one of the few reliable wind turbines in that size range and is particularly appropriate for the wind patterns of Navarra which are strong in specific locations, making large clusters of small turbines impractical. On the other hand, Spanish made 500 kW units will not be available for testing until well into the next year.

Critics of the scheme might be nearer the mark when attacking the viability of the region as a wind power producer. Navarra was never earmarked by the Spanish authorities when potential wind sites were evaluated and the feeling in some of the domestic industry is that Navarra's potential has been exaggerated. EHN dismiss the reproaches by pointing to its six year study of the region's wind resources, which they say revealed commercial potential at all of the sites now contemplated for development as well as other areas.

Although the project has still to be given the go ahead by the Navarra government, which is currently evaluating the scheme, EHN says it will in all probability be approved with only minor amendments since it is part of a vast scheme to completely revamp Navarra's power supply system on the basis of alternative energy production, including biomass and mini hydroelectric dams.

EHN's staggered work schedule will add another 40 wind turbines to its El Perd—n project and lists an initial 16 sites which will be phased in gradually from 1996 until the year 2010, at a rate of one wind farm a year. The project's first 33 turbines will be built at Guerinda in 1996 and the last 60 at Okoro in 2010.

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