In 2018, Spain was the third country in the world in terms of net value for wind power technology exports, a sector where 207 operational centers work in manufacturing equipment for the installation, expansion, and repowering of wind farms, 20 centers and nine universities are investing in R+D activities, and that employs 22,578 people. During this period, it has prevented the emission of 25 million CO2 emissions per year.
In Spain, the wind power generation sector is growing and progressing at a staggering speed. Its development has been exponential and, to date, it stands as the country’s second energy source. Spain is the fifth nation in the world in terms of installed capacity, only behind China, United States, Germany, and India, and the second in Europe. Germany is at the lead with 29%, followed by Spain with 20%, England with 9% and Italy with 7%.
Wind is one of the industrial sectors identified as strategic for the country’s economic development, with a contribution of more than €3.3 billion to the nation’s GDP and €2.3 billion in exports.
Wind Power: Second Source of Power Generation
According to reports disclosed by WindEurope, in just one decade, wind power moved up five spots in the European energy mix to become the second energy source in 2016, only behind natural gas.
Since then, it has maintained as the number two source, accounting for 18% of the continent’s energy share in 2017. Throughout that year, the wind power industry generated 336 TWh, enough to cover 11.6% of the European Union’s electricity demand and very close to the number one spot.
In this scenario, data from the Spanish Wind Energy Association (AEE) indicates that in 2018, the wind power capacity installed in Spain rose by 392 MW. Since the 2000s, the nation has experienced a significant rise in the installed capacity thanks to the incentives promoted by the legislation, including research and development activities and investments from both the private and public sectors.
Wind Power Covers 19% of Domestic Demand
According to the AEE, wind power was the second source of electricity generation in Spain in 2018 with 23,484 MW. Other results in the sector reveal that the energy generated by wind covers 19% of the nation’s consumption, thanks to operations at 1,123 facilities installed in 807 municipalities. By comparison, wind power covers more than 5% of global energy demand.
A study on the state of renewable energies and employment prepared by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) in 2018 indicates that Spain was the third country in the world in terms of the net value of wind power technology exports, only behind Denmark and Germany.
Renewable energy sources covered 40% of the total energy demand in Spain, with wind standing as the leader, compared with solar PV, which covered 3%, and thermosolar (1.8%).
The president of the AEE, Rocio Sicre del Rosal, said that the main strengths of the wind sector as a success case in Spain lie on having a broad technology, industrial, innovation, and business base, which positions the company as a global leader that also constitutes an entire value chain.
“This allows, on one hand, reducing imports to a minimum and, on the other, increasing the industry’s resilience in the face of situations of lower local activity, so the Spanish wind sector can become a net exporter.”
Overall, the boom of the wind sector is attributed to incentives provided, on one hand, by legal instruments – including the Law for Climate Change and Energy Transition, the National Comprehensive Energy and Climate Plan, and Royal Decree 661/2007 of the Ministry of Industry, Tourism, and Commerce, which regulates the power generation activity on a special regime.
The document states that Spanish society has a growing demand for renewables and energy efficiency as basic principles for sustainable economic, social, and environmental development.
Deepening Research and Development Activities
Various research and development centers, technological centers, and universities operating in Spanish territory are focused on posing innovative challenges for the wind power sector. According to the AEE annual report,
the effort dedicated to these activities exceeds the average in all other sectors in the Spanish economy, accounting for 3.06% of the contributions to the GDP in 2018, up from just 1.19% of the total 5.2% in 2016.
Figures published by the Wind Energy Technology Network (Reoltec) indicate that Spain stands as a powerhouse in terms of intellectual property (patents) in the wind sector, only behind United States, Germany, Japan, and China.
Some of these R&D activities focus on creating innovations for the offshore wind power sector, which include the development that gave way to the installation of the first offshore wind turbine in the Canary Islands, part of the ELISA project, installed in the Oceanic Platform of the Canary Islands (PLOCAN) by Esteyco.
Some of the studies conducted by universities touch on topics like the desalinization of seawater with systems powered by wind power, mini wind turbines, the impact of lightning on wind turbines, variable speed electricity systems, and grid integration, as well as the wind resource, systems modeling, and turbulence, among many others.
Juan Virgilio Márquez, CEO of the AEE, told Energía16 the Spanish wind sector is working on strategic R&D lines, such as digitalization, offshore wind, grid integration, firm power contributions with hybridization and storage, extending the operational lifespan of wind farms, and financial schemes like PPAs.
“All these strategic lines are fundamental for wind power to continue to be a key technology in our system and for our industries to continue to be competitive and a benchmark around the world,” he stressed.
Juan Virgilio Márquez, General Manager of the Spanish Wind Energy Association (AEE), assures that wind power technology is a key for industries to continue to be competitive and a benchmark worldwide
Operators and Manufacturers in Line With Growth
The companies mostly focused on operating wind farms in Spain are Iberdrola, with the most potential in the renewable power sector; Endesa, one of the leaders of the Spanish electricity sector and the number two power supplier in Portugal; Naturgy, which operates in the electricity and gas sectors, combining and managing power generation through renewable resources; Siemens Gamesa, with more than four decades working on innovation and renewable energies; Grenergy Renovables, focused on project development and independent renewable energy production; Audax Renovables, specialized in the wind power branch, and Solaria, specialized in renewable energies, although mostly focused on solar PV technology.
The local wind power industry has 195 manufacturing facilities in 12 of the 17 Autonomous Communities and Spain stands as the number three country in Europe in terms of turbine manufacture and number five in the world. Turbine manufacturers in Spain have a market share of more than 85% in the country.
99% of the wind turbines made in Spain are earmarked for export and 90% of the components for these turbines are made in the country.
Márquez clarified that his associates participate in a variety of workgroups, which are the backbone of this association and contribute the companies’ experience and expertise.
These groups cover practically all the areas related to wind energy production, from market tracking to R+D. Furthermore, the workgroups come up with initiatives and prioritize the actions to successfully meet the sector’s future challenges.
But what have been the most outstanding results? According to Márquez, “one of the most outstanding milestones of the past year has been the collaboration with REE to improve procedures that affect wind parks operation. Our workgroups also monitor electricity prices, wind power’s share in adjustment services and the entry into operations of the Continuous Intraday Market, among other topics. Another recently created workgroup on the extension of service life focuses on analyzing the existing regulations, studying cases of successful operating life extension of wind power facilities and the creation of a “Guide of Proper Practices for the Life Extension of Wind Turbines.”
Over the past months, AEE prepared a document titled “Study for repowering wind farms in Spain,” which documents the sector’s positioning and identifies the necessary measures to favor the development of this type of project.
Wind Power for Energy Transition
Márquez added that these workgroups are quite diverse and a large part of them have a technical component. “Additionally, we have other groups focused on energy regulation and transition. This group has made petitions on behalf of the wind power sector regarding the energy transition before the corresponding institutions, with specific allegations and documents dealing with the sector’s goals and interests. The Taxation Workgroup deals with issues related to tax proposals in the sector with regards to the energy transition, and specifically on the impact of Royal Decree 15/2018.”
The executive remarked that there are many workgroups in different areas of analysis and improvement for the wind power industry and the associated companies collaborate so that AEE can have access to the best experts and professionals. In this way, the product and effort made by these groups offers differentiating value as an association.
Challenges in the Short Term and Workgroups
The AEE groups nearly 200 players in the sector – 90% of the total – between operators, promoters, manufacturers, research & development centers, universities, national and regional associations, organizations linked to the sector, advisors, lawyers, financial entities, ensuring companies, and more.
When asked about the immediate challenges in the Spanish wind sector, Márquez stated: “the wind sector is going through a time of opportunities that must be seized. As an immediate challenge, commissioning the wind power capacity awarded on the three tenders held in 2016 and 2017 entail growth opportunities in the market and would have an unarguable positive effect for Spain coming from the reliance of Spanish wind power industry, lower GHG emissions, job creation, and social and economic development in areas with new wind facilities installed, among others. The future scenario stands as a huge challenge and wind technology is prepared to successfully develop the industry’s growth in Spain.”
He added that the estimate for 2020 – once the facilities from the latest tenders are commissioned – is that wind power will become the number one technology in the Spanish mix. He indicated according to the National Comprehensive Energy and Climate Plan (PNIEC) wind power is expected to cover 34% of the nation’s electricity demand by 2030, up from current 19% to 34% of the nation’s total electricity demand. To this end, the installed capacity must be doubled.
“These figures evidence the revival of the sector and its potential for growth,” Márquez adds.
Doubling the Installed Capacity: An Opportunity
When asked about the main opportunities in the sector, Márquez said he expected a period of intense activity for wind power, as to double the installed capacity and become the number one technology in our electrical system.
“We have a European framework that gives us visibility for the next ten years. This visibility and long term stability will be fundamental to attract the necessary investments for the new facilities. The Spanish wind sector is prepared to face this challenge and succeed. This will no doubt require reaching a framework of political consensus, regulatory stability, and remuneration visibility so that the sector can reach the targets set, as well as the optimum development of the best technology and efficient financial costs throughout the process. The AEE hopes that renewables continue to grow in our energy system in order the reach the established goals,” he concluded.
- 207 operative centers in 16 of the 17 Spanish Autonomous Communities are working intensively to manufacture equipment for the installation, expansion, and repowering of wind power generation facilities.
- 20 centers and nine universities dedicate their research and development activities to this sector.
- 22,578 people benefit from job opportunities in the wind industry.
- Preventing the emission of around 25 million tons of GHG per year.
- 40% of the electricity consumed by Spaniards in 2018 came from renewables, which evidences a significant rise compared with last year, thanks to the energy generated by hydroelectricity and the unusual rise of wind power generation recorded in some months of the year.
- The wind power industry exports €2.9 billion worth of cutting edge technology a year.
- 12% of all wind turbines and components installed around the world were manufactured by the Spanish wind industry.
For more information, check Energía16