Surge of confidence at Madrid seminar -- New target and new record

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The Spanish government has penned a target for 29 MW of installed wind capacity by 2016 -- up from 20 GW by 2010 -- as part a new electricity infrastructures plan due to be adopted in the new year. Current installed capacity is close to 13,500 MW with more than 2000 MW coming online each year. By 2030, state energy secretary, Ignasi Nieto says he expects wind power to have reached 40 MW and says his department is already studying how the Spanish power system can be structured for that volume of wind generation.

"The signals could hardly be more positive," says Ramón Fiestas of wind association Asociación Empresarial Eólica (AEE). Not only has the industry come off a record year -- early estimates point to 2300 MW installed in 2007 -- it has cracked the 1300 MW barrier set by transmission system operator Red Eléctrica de España (REE) back in 2002 as the absolute maximum the electricity system could cope with to 2010.

The positive mood was slightly marred by Nieto restating his intention to reduce the power purchase price subsidy for wind power. Wind's production incentive has already been slashed by a third to EUR 29.29/MWh under regulations introduced in June (Windpower Monthly, June 2007). Nieto now wants a built-in incremental reduction of the subsidy each year.

"It's early days to worry," says AEE's Alberto Ceña. Both the finance sector and the wind industry are currently more impressed by Nieto's new found support of wind than worried about his potential subsidy cuts. Ceña says Spain's commitment to the overall EU target of 20% renewables by 2020 requires the government to keep payments for wind power at a level that can support the market.

REE, however, is again warning that the goals for wind generation could jeopardise security of electricity supply. With 40 GW on the horizon, REE's Miguel Duvison says the gas reserves needed to balance supply and demand will need increasing to cover the additional uncertainty of variable input from wind plant.

AEE points out that REE is repeating its mantra from 2002 when it said that 12% wind power was the absolute safety limit. Over the past year wind penetration has repeatedly topped 20% and recently reached a record 31.6%, notes AEE. With all wind stations now required to send their output through dispatch control centres, REE can monitor 100% of national wind production in real time and exercise instant curtailment if required (Windpower Monthly, February 2007). Even utility Iberdrola's Angeles Santamaria says 40 GW is attainable by 2020. "Whatever grid integration challenges that poses should be seen as an opportunity, not an obstacle," he told seminar delegates.

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