Less is more in new regional strategy -- Industrial net metering in Galicia

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With a history of success in planning strategic wind development, authorities in Spain's northern region of Galicia are working rapidly to settle last minute details on a new, revised strategy that is meant to speed up development by allowing for small, distributed projects. The work -- mainly instigated by regional energy agency INEGA -- takes the burden off the overly saturated power grid by spreading out new projects and allowing for industries to build wind plant to meet their own power needs.

The new strategy is part of a law proposal and supra-municipal plan expected to be approved in August. Already a net exporter of electricity, Galicia has been stuck on its plans for the immediate future because of its grid bottleneck. Its new strategy coincides with a recent grid expansion agreement with national grid owner Red Eléctrica Española (REE) that will clear the way for up to 2000 MW more wind power by 2006. The regional government, or Xunta, is also negotiating with local distributors, Viesgo and Unión Fenosa, in order to free the way for more grid space.

By April Galicia had 682 MW of wind turbines on-line, with 495 MW in construction, 95 MW awaiting building licenses and applications for another 2000 MW. Galicia's target for 2010 is to have 3500 MW of wind power installed. The Xunta now thinks it can not only meet the target but exceed it. In addition to the increase in "research zones" granted to developers last year (Windpower Monthly, August 2000), INEGA Director Juan Caamaño explains the target is merely a guideline and that given improvements in technology since 1995's original wind plan, the final figure could exceed 5000 MW.

Shift in investment

Caamaño explains that one of the most outstanding aspects of the draft plan rests in its attempt to usher in greater proliferation of small scale wind developments in a region where the emphasis has long since been on large plant. One way is to help town halls develop their own wind plant and the other is to encourage the region's industries to put up turbines to provide part of their own equivalent electricity demand. Apart from boosting municipal coffers -- and thus adding to the general popularity of wind development in the region (Windpower Monthly, March 2000) -- the Xunta sees development by both town halls and industries as one way of avoiding grid saturation -- especially important if REE's improvements fall behind schedule.

For town halls, the draft establishes a maximum quota of 3 MW of wind power each to prevent power-line saturation, Caamaño says. Many town halls have already shown enthusiasm for the idea, says Caamaño.

Much of the region's wind capacity comes in concentrated clusters that require administratively complex grid improvements, such as Acciona's 59 MW Xistral development in Lugo province, now being extended by 66 MW. Galicia's demography lends a helping hand with grid bottlenecks, however. The region harbours almost as many municipal districts as many other Spanish regions put together and thus has an extensive network of 20 kV local electricity lines capable of absorbing small plant production.

Similarly, INEGA's initiative for industries to provide part of their own electricity with turbines will help spread the region's installed capacity more thinly. Caamaño says the aim is for businesses to generate the equivalent of 25-30% of their own electricity demand.

Investment shift

Among the other important measures of the draft bill is the Xunta's change of wording from "Planes Industriales" (Industrial Plans) in the existing strategy to "Planes Empresariales" (Business Plans) in the new draft. The previous industrial investment demands on developers have brought in 12 new factories, including three turbine assembly plants and three blade plants. Although INEGA insists that it will continue pushing to keep 70% of all wind development investment within the region, industry insiders think the emphasis will now be on regional supply and service contracts rather than the exacting investment demands made upon developers up to now.

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