Spain approves six gigawatt wind capacity by 2012

Europe: The Spanish government gave the go-ahead in November for 6 GW of new wind capacity by 2012, which is well above the 5 GW that had been anticipated by the industry (Windpower Monthly, December 2009). The industry ministry also set out a schedule to build 1.7-1.8 GW annually until then. The 6 GW includes 600 MW of permits for immediate construction in late 2009.

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The ministry has informed individual developers of the schedule and hopes to make public the project list in the near future.

The schedule sets a new target of 23 GW by 2012, beyond the 20.15 GW previously set for 2010. National wind association Asociacion Empresarial Eolica (AEE) says this reignites the country's wind market after restrictions on eligibility for the existing incentive last year caused a six-month freeze in new capacity.

Future still uncertain

But, with no targets or support beyond 2012, the future is unclear. For the sector to reach the EU's 20% renewables target, 40-44 GW of cumulative wind capacity is needed to 2020, making longer-term direction vital, says AEE president Jose Donoso.

In May, the industry ministry passed a decree requiring central-government approval for new projects not yet registered as fully operational in order to be eligible for production incentives. With over 17 GW online by then, the aim was to prevent regional governments, which were previously responsible for licensing, from allowing runaway development beyond 2010.

With the support mechanism after 2012 expected to pay far less, a developer rush caused a 14 GW bottleneck. The 6 GW allocation covers less than half of these applications, and AEE is lobbying for government assurances for the rest in order to keep investors on board.

There are also wind projects under construction and online that are not yet approved by central government. AEE is pushing hard to free up that capacity, and has received appeals from several of the affected developers, says communications chief Sergio de Otto.

Meanwhile, AEE is conducting a survey as to what extent the beefed-up allocation will trigger factories to produce new turbines rather than using units stockpiled during the six-month freeze. "There are as many knowns as unknowns right now, but we should have a clear idea of the status quo early in the new year," says De Otto.

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