Growth stutters but future looks secure -- Portugal to pass 3000 MW

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After two consecutive years as Europe's third largest wind market, 2007 proved to be a year of less impressive performance for Portugal. With just over 433 MW of new capacity installed, compared with 692 MW in 2006, the country slipped two places in the European rankings, with its annual performance some way behind Italy in fourth place. Its cumulative installed total stood at 2149.6 MW by the end of the year, up from 1716.4 MW in 2006.

Despite the slower growth, a generation record was scored when wind power supplied just over 20% of the country's electricity on several days in December. So good is the Portuguese resource, that wind power stations typically operate for as much as 2120 "full load" hours a year, adds Portugal's General Directorate for Energy and Geology (DGEG).

The dip in wind plant installation shows all signs of being a one-off, with Portugal aiming to double its wind capacity over the next four years to around 5700 MW by 2012. The government has earmarked EUR 1.7 billion of a EUR 8.1 billion renewables spending plan to 2012 for wind power and by November had licensed 3332 MW of wind plant for construction. A good slice of the wind budget will be used to provide transmission capacity for wind power, assures the president of grid operator REN, José Penedso. The growth in wind and hydro generation means Portugal can stop importing electricity from Spain in the next five years, say REN.

Just under 920 MW is currently in construction, with installed wind capacity set to rise to 3066.7 MW this year, according to Porto University's Instituto de Engenharia Mecanica e Gestao Industrial (INEGI). DGEG confirms that operational wind capacity should rise to at least 2800 MW. Plans in the pipeline include 1600 MW of projects awarded government contracts in 2006 and 2007.

Prices for wind generated electricity remain varied. While some wind power producers continue to receive rates of EUR 92-93/MWh, the price to be paid to the consortium, led by Eólicas de Portugal (EDP), which is building 1200 MW under a contract won in the first around of the government's public tender in 2006, will be much lower at around EUR 69/MWh. Average wind power purchase prices, says Antonio Sá da Costa of the Portuguese Association of Renewable Energies, are around EUR 80/MWh. The wind energy business in Portugal is a profitable one, he adds.

The country is set to become a key exporter of turbines, with the EDP consortium of Finerge, Generge, Térmica Portuguesa and Enercon pressing ahead with seven equipment factories that the partners promised to establish as part of their winning bid for the 1200 MW contract. The factories, at Viana do Castelo, Sever do Vouga and Braga, are expected to start production by August and turn out 180 Enercon 2 MW turbines a year. "More than 60% of the production will be exported," says EDP president Aníbal Fernandes. The first of 48 wind farms to be built by the consortium, all around 25 MW in size, is due to become operational by the end of this year or early in 2009, with all others due online by 2011.

Next wave

The remaining 400 MW the government offered up for tender was awarded last year to the Ventiveste consortium, headed by Galp Energia and including Martifer, Enersis, Efacec and Repower Systems. Under its EUR 636 million winning bid, the Galp consortium is also building manufacturing facilities. Its annual production will be 130 wind generators and 267 sets of blades. The first of its eight contracted wind farms is expected online in 2009, with the remainder up and running by 2013. A third government tender, consisting of smaller projects with a combined capacity of just 200 MW, is planned.

Construction work continues on Portugal's largest wind station, the 240 MW Alto Minho I wind project of 120 Enercon turbines. It is slated for completion next year. The project is being developed by Empreendimentos Eolicos do Vale do Minho (EEVM), a joint venture company which includes DST, Finerge (part of Spain's Endesa Group) and France's EDF Energie Nouvelle. EDF EN is also developing its 112 MW Arada wind farm in central Portugal, due online in 2009.

Meanwhile, Belgian utility Electrabel is expanding its portfolio in Portugal, with plans to increase its capacity from 150 MW of operational wind plant at present to 214 MW in the near future under an agreement made with Spanish firm Gamesa back in 2002. Under the arrangement, Gamesa develops and builds the projects and Electrabel acquires them.

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