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Over the next ten years authorities on Spain's Canary Islands plan to multiply the archipelago's installed wind power capacity by five, upping its current 26 MW to 128 MW. The announcement comes as an increasing number of wind companies -- most of them Spanish -- are requesting permits for installation of some 150 MW on three of the Canaries seven islands.

"Of these, at least 21 MW has been authorised and work installing them has already started," says Sinda Hernandez Gonzalez of the Canary Island's commerce and industry ministry. According to Hernandez, the government has allotted most of the wind plant to Gran Canaria (50 MW), followed by Tenerife (45 MW), Fuerteventura (15 MW), La Palma (9 MW), Lanzarote (7 MW), La Gomera (1 MW) and El Hierro (1 MW). The planned increase in wind power is part of the archipelago's renewable energy plan for the region, PERCAN, which was originally drawn up in 1994 and amended over the past few months. According to Hernandez, the main problem facing the authorities on the island is grid instability on a network mainly fed by conventional diesel-driven thermal stations.

"If all the wind power projects in Gran Canaria go ahead as planned, this alternative form of energy will represent about 15% of the entire island's demand," says Hernandez, who adds that a similar situation could arise in Tenerife. Hernandez says the regional government is trying to remedy the impact of erratic supply on the grid and has been investigating the problem since 1994 in close co-operation with the local utility, UNELCO.

Experts believe that if the research is successful, wind power in the Canaries -- in the Atlantic Ocean some 1500 kilometres from the Spanish mainland off the African coast -- could easily top the 150 MW ceiling set by government, given the islanders' thirst for electricity. Interest in wind energy in the Canaries took off in a big way at the beginning of the decade when the archipelago could boast it had the biggest wind power output in all of Spain with 1.07 MW. Today it has 146 turbines.

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