Not a single wind turbine nacelle was on show at Madrid's Genera Energy and Environment International Trade Fair last month-as clear an indication as any of sector interest in the event. The trade fair comes squashed between last October's busy ExpoPower in Zaragoza -- where nine wind turbine nacelles dominated the show's exhibition stands -- and the upcoming European Wind Energy Association Conference (EWEC), to be held in Madrid in mid-June. Genera's more than 150 display stands spread out over 5125 square metres of floor space were mostly devoted to other renewable energy technologies.
Nevertheless, many key wind players manned relatively modest stands. "We're here to keep one eye open," said Antonio Bezcos of Denmark's NEG Micon, a major supplier in Spain. Gamesa -- Spain's leading turbine manufacturer as well as a wind project developer and operations and maintenance provider -- also put in a modest appearance. Last year it chose to ignore Genera, a decision made for this year's event by Spain's other domestic turbine suppliers, Ecotécnia and Made.
Izar, Spanish makers of turbines from Denmark's Bonus, was glowing at one of the fair's largest wind stands having secured a chain of recent contracts after a long slack period. Nordex, now firmly rooted in the Spanish market, had a relaxed trickle of visitors, while fellow German, REpower, continued its struggle for a foothold in Spain with a small stand too.
While business on the commercial stands seemed humdrum, the surrounding conference centre swarmed with wind-sector delegates and exhibitors keen to witness a vibrant series of seminars. One of the main features of the technical seminars was the presentation of advanced models for predicting the output of energy from wind power stations.
Predicting wind output has become serious business in Spain following the publication of a grid regulation strategy as part of September's state energy plan. The strategy has capped installed wind power capacity across the country at 13,000 MW for 2011, citing supply security issues for the decision. One way of lifting the lid is for the wind industry to demonstrate that it can predict wind plant output sufficiently accurately to maintain production schedules.
Gamesa Energía presented its prediction model, Cassandra, at the exhibition. Although incomplete, Cassandra is already giving "tremendously satisfactory results," according to the company's Fernando Ferrando. He says the prototype system is being tested in two Gamesa wind stations, one powered by complex and less predictable wind in the northern region of Galicia and another in less variable condition in north-eastern Aragón.
A prediction software model is also currently being finalised by Spanish energy institutions and grid operator Red Eléctrica de España in a EUR 4.3 million program. The model aims at precise measurements (15 minute resolution) six hours ahead and slightly less precise precision (60 minute resolution) seven days ahead. The software will soon be working at the El Perdón wind plant in Navarra, in the north of the country, powered by Gamesa Eólica technology, and the 17.5 MW Sotavento showcase plant in Galicia using technology from Spain's six main suppliers.
Meanwhile, energy state secretary Jose Folgado's conference contribution disappointed expectant delegates. Folgado gave no indication of the new renewables tariff model he had promised for the first term of 2003, supposedly aimed at providing longer-term fixed price security to wind producers. On the contrary, Folgado has stretched the deadline to within the first semester.
The Spanish head of a small organisation calling itself the European Renewable Energy Federation, Joan Fages, spoke on policy requirements. He underlined the clear lead in the wind industry held by Germany, Spain and Denmark. He maintains these countries account for 85% of European installed capacity "thanks to feed-in tariff models."
Fages is clearly disturbed by the growing tendency within the EU to replace fixed price payment for renewables output -- effectively net metering systems -- with business models based on renewables mandates and green certificate trade. This is the structure of wind power markets in the UK, Italy, Belgium and Sweden, with others expected to adopt the model too. He argues that not only do such models require extensive state intervention in establishing benchmarks, prices and production quotas, but that they are also costly. All the systems, he claims, lead to prices of well over EUR 100 MWh, compared with a European average of EUR 74/MWh and a Spanish average of just over EUR 60/MWh, according to Fages.