Wind turbines in Villar de los Navarros, in the Zaragoza region, on April 5, 2022 (AFP/CESAR MANSO)
Influx of investments and abundance of projects: favorable winds are blowing in Spain for the wind sector, which last year became the main source of electricity in the country. An asset since the war in Ukraine has reignited the debate on energy independence from the EU.
“Here we are on favorable ground,” says Joaquín García Latorre, director of projects at Enel Green Power Spain, pointing to the gigantic masts raised on the heights of Villar de los Navarros, a town of a hundred souls in the Zaragoza region (northeast).
The Spanish-Italian group chose this location well exposed to the wind to install one of the largest wind farms in the country: the Tico wind farm, made up of 43 wind turbines with a total power of 180 megawatt-hours (MWh).
“This park entered the production phase in November” and will be fully operational “within a month”, explains Joaquín García Latorre, while the workers work around these immense machines, which culminate at more than a hundred meters high.
“Here there are between 2,500 and 3,000 hours of wind a year. This means that we will be able to produce about 471 gigawatt-hours (GWh) per year”, or “the equivalent of the consumption of 148,000 homes”, adds the manager of ‘Enel.
From Galicia to the Basque Country, passing through Andalusia, projects of this type have multiplied for several years in Spain, the second country in Europe behind Germany and fifth in the world in terms of installed wind power.
According to the manager of the Spanish electricity network, last year wind power became the country’s leading source of electricity with 23% compared to 21% for nuclear power and 17% for gas.
“Wind energy benefits from a favorable situation”, although there are still “brakes” to its development, highly dependent on the auctions organized by the Government, said judge Francisco Valverde Sánchez, a specialist in the sector at the firm Menta Energia.
After a boom in the early 2000s thanks to the granting of public aid, the sector suffered a sudden halt in 2013, after the cessation of subsidies in the midst of the economic crisis.
Since then it has picked up again: the installed capacity of Spain, which houses a total of 1,265 wind farms, has thus gone from 23.4 gigawatts in 2018 to 28.1 gigawatts in 2021, according to the Spanish Association of Wind Companies (AEE) .
– “Power Penthouse” –
Many sparsely populated areas, a favorable legal framework, avant-garde industrial fabric… “Spain is currently one of the most interesting markets for investors,” underlines Juan Virgilio Márquez, general director of AEE.
Installation of wind turbines in the highlands of Villar de los Navarros, April 5, 2022 (AFP/CESAR MANSO)
The world’s third largest exporter of wind turbines, the country is home to several renewable energy heavyweights, such as Iberdrola and Naturgy. “That explains the dynamism of the sector” and the “appetite” it arouses, insists Márquez.
An appetite that goes beyond energy players: in November, the Spanish billionaire Amancio Ortega, founder of Zara, injected 245 million euros into a park in the northeast of the country.
Will this momentum continue? In 2020, Madrid is committed to increasing the share of renewable energy (wind, solar, etc.) in electricity to 74% by 2030 compared to the current 47%. This leads to the commissioning of 22 gigawatts in eight years.
To achieve this objective, the Government is committed to the development of offshore wind energy, at this incipient stage, but for which Spain has great potential, with its thousands of kilometers of coastline.
“This is an ambitious goal” that involves “further accelerating the deployment” of the sector, points out Francisco Valverde Sánchez. This can only be done, according to him, on the condition that “bureaucracy” is reduced, which delays many files.
According to PREPA, currently about 600 projects are being examined by the State services. As part of its economic response plan to the war in Ukraine, Madrid has promised to streamline procedures for projects of less than 75 MW.
Spain “has sufficient resources to become the first European country in the production and export of renewable energies”, essential for the “energy independence” of the EU, the president of the socialist government, Pedro Sánchez, insisted on Wednesday.
A message transmitted throughout the sector since the Russian invasion of Ukraine. “Spain has great wind potential (…) It could become Europe’s energy barn,” sums up Juan Virgilio Márquez.