The quiet giant of Spanish wind

Google Translate

With little ado and much businesslike professionalism, Enerfin has developed 250 MW of wind power in two huge projects and will add at least another 180 MW to its wind portfolio this year. It owns the projects it builds. The secret of Enerfin's strength lies in its huge mother company

Only a handful of non-utility developers have put up as much as 250 MW of wind power in Spain. Enerfin is one of the few exceptions, with 250 MW online, 180 MW due to start building and well over 800 MW in further mature projects, not to mention a sizeable pipeline. Yet the Spanish company, an active wind plant operator and developer since 1997, maintains a low profile -- and director Guillermo Planas prefers to keep it that way.

Planas will find it harder to deflect the industry spotlight as Enerfin's ambitions continue to grow. The latest project to come online is the 100 MW Pàramo de Poza wind station in Castile and León -- built in less than eight months. This follows the 150 MW that went up in 1998-2000 in Navarra. Later this year, the company also expects to start work on its 128 MW Faro-Farelo project in Galicia as well as a 50 MW joint venture in Andalucia, both using 1.6 MW turbines from Ecotècnia.

Furthermore, Enerfin is making headway with its company Guadalaviar, a 50-50 joint venture with Spanish developer Alabe. It won a 608 MW development concession from Valencia's regional government in January last year. Enerfin is currently negotiating connection points in the region with grid operator Red Electrica Española, as well as pooling resources with neighbouring wind developers to evaluate and finance interconnection lines. Meanwhile, in Castile-La Mancha, Enerfin has received grid connection priority for 78 MW.

Its giant strides do not stop in Spain. In Italy, Enerfin has four wind measuring towers with a view to putting up around 20 MW. Latin America, however, is Enerfin's main foreign target, although Argentina's economic collapse has put a time lock on the company's 3000 MW joint wind development plan with utility Endesa for Patagonia. The next ambitious plan is for Brazil, where Enerfin has 150 MW in projects for the state of Rio Grande do Sul as well as other developments for Santa Catarina state. Enerfin also has three projects totalling 45 MW planned for the west of Ecuador. Projects for Mexico wait in the wings. "Mexico has good winds but tariffs are still low and the wind sector here lacks regulation," says Planas.

The company's strategy is simple. "Our aim is to produce efficient and sustainable kilowatt hours," says Planas. "We develop wind stations with a view to operating them ourselves," he explains. For this reason Planas insists on reducing risks to a minimum to ensure that "capital intensive wind projects are still running 20-25 years down the road."

One of the mainstays of Enerfin's risk reduction strategy is vertical integration -- taking on as much of the developing and construction process itself as well as operating finished projects. At the developing stage, Enerfin takes care of wind resource measurement and analysis, production evaluation, environmental studies, micrositing, administrative processing, viability studies and financing models. Project auditors "such as Garrad Hassan" are also brought in "for verification." Such is the company's commitment, Planas adds, that Guadalaviar has already invested more than EUR 4 million in Valencia, where no single project has yet been given the green light.

Enerfin's ability to take on so much lies in its corporate power backing. It is 100% owned by Spain's giant business and industrial group Elecnor. Revenues in 2001 were around EUR 640 million, nearly EUR 90 million up on the previous year. Elecnor operates in 48 countries with offices and subsidiaries in 13, mainly Latin America. The group is involved in electrical, gas and water infrastructure, railways, plant installation, telecommunications, environmental projects and aerospace software systems, and more. Such sound backing, coupled with readily available in-house engineering, financing and other services, is the springboard to Enerfin's own actions.

Turnkey projects

"Plant construction is another major risk area," says Planas, and for this reason Enerfin carries out its own turnkey projects with the Elecnor group. It also uses in-house operation and maintenance services. Apart from the 15 MW Malpica plant -- which in 1997 became Galicia's first commercial wind station -- Elecnor has carried out all Enerfin's plant construction work with the collaboration of its turbine supplier.

So far, Enerfin has used only one such supplier: Spain's own Ecotècnia. Even so, Planas insists that one of his company's main strengths is its independence from turbine manufacturers, stressing that 2 MW machines from Germany's Enercon are penned for its Valencia development plans. Planas insists that Enerfin's choice of supplier has always optimised the technological and economic factors involved in its projects. He also insists on the security factor: "The chance of technology suppliers disappearing is another risk, so we choose very carefully to ensure long term continuity."

Ensuring local acceptance of wind plant is another key element of Enerfin's risk reduction policy. "Such long term projects have to be fully integrated environmentally, socially, economically and culturally," he adds. Enerfin's Páramo de Poza project is one of the few in Burgos province to escape vitriolic attacks from local wind watchdog group, Mesa Eólica (Windpower Monthly, April 2002), as it is spread across a rolling landscape "where there is nothing other than wind," says Planas. "None of the 133 turbines can be seen from any of the area's sensitive viewpoints," he claims.

Similarly, Enerfin claims the huge Faro-Farelo project earmarks low sensitivity terrain. The developer has undertaken a reforestation program in this fire-damaged area of Galicia and the wind plant will be built along a fire lane, which Enerfin pledges to maintain. Furthermore, Planas says Enerfin will install a series of bird-watching posts, a renewable energy information centre and a 30 kilometre mountain bike circuit. Cultural actions include the rehabilitation of archaeological sites and even the sponsorship of a basketball team called Galicia Vento (Galicia Wind).

Throughout Enerfin's growth, Planas has remained a staunch supporter of Spain's wind feed-in regulation, which guarantees returns greater than 90% of the average price consumers pay for electricity. He points out that Spain, Europe's second largest wind market, has a wind resource far smaller than countries such as Britain or areas of Latin American where the sector is struggling to get off the ground.

Planas does not agree with those who argue that Spain's tariff has resulted in the wind industry growing too fast, allowing the country's best sites to be taken up before the technology has matured properly. Planas says that the computer industry could be accused of the same. But, as with PCs, he argues "today's technology is the development of yesterday's technology. Yesterday's technology would not have happened without dynamic market conditions. Five years ago we put up 200 kW machines at Malpica. Soon, we will be putting up machines ten times as powerful in Valencia."

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles
and free email bulletins.

Sign up now
Already registered?
Sign in

Latest news