Wind Energy in Spain

Spain was the fourth largest wind market globally in 2010 with total installed capacity of 20,675 MW. Of this, 1,516 MW was new capacity. This is 520 MW above the government’s 2005 to 2010 Renewable Energies Action Plan target of 20,155 MW, despite the market contracting in 2010 due to the fallout from the recession and a new pre-allocation register for wind projects. Only combined cycle plants, with 26,844 MW at the end of 2010, exceeded wind’s installed capacity that year.

In Europe, Spain is ranked behind Germany in terms of installed capacity, but it generated more electricity from wind in 2010. Wind met 16.4% of electricity demand and generated 42,976 GWh compared to 6.2% of demand and 36,500 GWh in Germany.

Wind energy contributed 0.34% of the country’s GDP in 2009, a total of EUR 3,207 million. It generated EUR 2,104 million revenue from exporting electricity and EUR 1,541 million from replacing fossil fuel imports.

However, NRG Expert expects slowed growth in the sector in 2011, as less than 3,000 MW of capacity is remaining for the 2011 and 2012 in the government’s pre-allocation register, mentioned below. On top of this, depressed economic conditions in the country are unlikely to result in substantial investment in new wind projects. Repowering is expected to gather pace as the number of turbines in operation for 15 years or more increases. Therefore, a significant proportion of new capacity additions may not result in a considerable net increase in overall installed power capacity.

A new regulatory framework replacing the Royal Decree will be introduced in 2013, which may or may not benefit the wind sector, thus creating a large amount of uncertainty for wind developers.

Despite this, there is a demand for domestic sources of energy. Spain is a country with a strong reliance on imported sources of energy, having no oil or gas reserves of its own and only a few coal mines yielding low-quality coal. It has over 20,000 MW of large scale hydro capacity, but this is subject to erratic water levels. The country is very vulnerable to variations in the oil market. So, at the first analysis, the renewable energy plan has focused on increasing energy independence in Spain. A new energy source such as wind is not just an environmentally friendly source of power – Spain avoided 19.1 million tonnes of CO2 emissions in 2009 thanks to wind power – but also has strong economic justification.

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