Grid lock threatens massive growth -- Tension in Spain

Spain may have passed its goal of 700 MW of new wind in 2000, but growth in the year ahead is threatened by grid lock. Sudden deceleration in Aragón is due to grid saturation, also an issue for Castile and León. Indeed, grid limitations were the main reason for the wind development freeze in Andalusia in 1999, and the problem is set to hit even mighty Galicia.

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Installed wind capacity in Spain grew by two-thirds in 2000 with about 790 MW put on-line, bringing the year end total to 2331 MW, according to provisional figures from renewables agency IDAE. But according to the renewables producers' association, APPA, 917 MW was built last year, bringing the total to 2458 MW.

Regardless of which is the true figure, Spain passed its goal of 700 MW of new wind in 2000, as defined in its renewables promotion strategy, Plan de Fomento. APPA's Manuel Bustos stresses that such growth is especially significant given that it has come during a year in which many regions had called a stop to wind development plans while they put siting strategies in place. Progress has also been held up by grid limitations -- a growing problem.

Significant development was made in four regions: Galicia, Navarre, Castile la Mancha and Castile and León (table). The latter two ended year-long moratoria on wind development when their governments approved siting plans. This year, Valencia and Catalonia are expected to approve their plans too, opening up a potential of 1700 MW and 1500 MW.

New manufacturers and developers are waiting anxiously in the wings for these approvals, as well as the start of the licensing process for wind plant to fill the 2500 MW which Castile la Mancha's strategy allows for, and Aragón's 1800 MW plan. Meanwhile, major development is on the way in Andalusia (story page 28).

Valencia is experiencing a flurry of activity. It wants wind to contribute considerably to the regional economy. This has led to a series of alliances as both Spanish and foreign companies shuffle to hook up with local industries. Developer Sinae has joined forces with Energía y Desarrollo Sostenible, a conglomeration of nine regional companies, to back developments totalling 400 MW. Similarly, a joint venture was struck between German turbine manufacturer Frisia Windkraftanlagen Produktion and Valencia's own Industrias Ochoa to produce 500, 1 MW turbines, with a view to exporting them to other regions too.

The grid factor

The halt of previously large scale development in Aragón was a major shock of 2000. Only the 31 MW Sierra Selva plant went on-line -- and that project even crosses into Navarre. The sudden deceleration was due to grid saturation, an issue that also looms large for Castile and León. Indeed, grid limitations were the main reason for the wind development freeze in Andalusia in 1999, and the problem is even set to hit mighty Galicia. With 614 MW of wind plant on-line at the end of 2000 and a further 295 MW building, a complete halt on new plant construction is predicted in Galicia this year, even for the 234 MW of newly authorised developments. So far Aragón is alone in coming up with an integrated solution to grid expansion at regional level (Windpower Monthly, November 2000).

Of the Spanish wind turbine manufacturers, Gamesa Eólica retains its market dominance -- 546 MW, or 68% of new capacity, according to IDAE. The company says it installed more, 628 MW, with another 217 MW building and an accumulated total of 1475 MW. Likewise, Ecotècnia's 174 MW claim for 2000 also contrasts with IDAE's lower estimate, a problem which, according to Felix Avia of Spain's renewables R&D organisation, Ciemat, derives from the different definitions of the term "up and running." This accounts for IDAE's low 20 MW estimate for MADE, though the company's Antonio Bescos lays claim to 110 MW in 2000, bringing its total installations to 345 MW, with another 180 MW going up.

The mainstay of Ecotècnia's new capacity was its 750 kW turbine, used for 128 MW. The remaining 46 MW consisted of 640 kW turbines. Two foreign manufacturers, Danish NEG Micon and German Enercon, managed to get 23 MW and 17 MW on-line, respectively.

Notably, Spanish turbine manufacturer Abengoa and affiliated developer Desarrollos Eólicos (DESA) made a comeback last year after their joint installed capacity stopped at 98 MW in 1998 with the 18.3 MW Corme plant in Galicia. Abengoa also installed a 600 kW prototype in Tarifa towards the end of last year, according to reports from Andalusia's energy agency SODEAN.

Megawatt technology in 2000 was limited to prototypes from MADE and Gamesa. MADE Tecnologias, the wind turbine arm of utility Endesa, has two 1.32 MW machines running in Galicia and Tarifa, while Gamesa is testing two 1.65 MW units in its Mas Garullo plant in Aragón. Gamesa's main focus for the near future seems to be on its 850 kW machine, of which it has two prototypes running in Galicia. Its affiliated developer, Gamesa Energía, says it will use Gamesa Eólica 850 kW technology in its most imminent projects.

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