At 1 January 2010, accumulated wind energy capacity in Spain stood at 19,050 MW, a figure that is only surpassed by the United States, Germany and China and close to the target of 20,155 MW established in the Renewable Energies Plan for the end of 2010. Having generated close to 36,000 GWh of electricity during 2009, wind power – which on occasions covered more than 50% of total electricity demand at specific times – met 14% of total electricity demand in Spain. In other words, wind power in Spain provides enough electricity in a year to meet the demand of almost nine million homes.
More than 2,500 MW of wind capacity was installed in Spain during 2009, the majority of which was supplied by factories in our country using both national technology (Gamesa Eólica, Acciona Windpower and Alstom-Ecotècnia) and foreign technology (Vestas, Suzlon, Enercon, etc.). The Spanish wind industry has created a strong and competitive business structure with a significant international reach, comprising wind farm developers – Iberdrola Renovables and Acciona Energía among others – wind turbine manufacturers and a plethora of companies involved in the component supply chain (75 industrial centres related with the wind sector exist in Spain, 18 of which are wind turbine assembly plants) and operation and maintenance, which were founded and have expanded as the sector has grown. It is not, therefore, surprising that this sector has become an important employer, with more than 40,000 direct and indirect jobs at present.
Spain is also a net exporter of equipment, services and technology associated with this industry. At the end of 2008, Spanish developers had installed 8,000 MW of capacity overseas, especially in the United States (over 3,460 MW) and Portugal (1,160 MW). This international reach has also been achieved by Spanish wind turbine and component manufacturers, engineering firms and service providers, which operate in more than 30 countries. It is estimated that exports by the entire sector amounted to Euros 2.9 billion in 2008.
One of the key factors contributing to the spectacular growth of the wind industry in Spain is the existence of a favourable national regulatory framework, which gives confidence and certainty to developers, and the backing of regional governments through their energy plans and administrative procedures. Ongoing technological innovations of wind turbines have also enabled them to perform somewhat better in terms of grid stability, enabling the maximum amount of wind power to be integrated into the electricity system (new operating procedures, adaptation of wind turbines to comply with technical requirements, improvement in forecasting systems, etc.).
In particular, Spain has developed the world’s first centre for optimising the integration of renewables – especially wind power – into the national grid: the CECRE, Centre for the Control of the Special Regime. The CECRE manages and controls in real time all the wind power generated by wind farms of over 10 MW (more than 98% of total wind power output in Spain), which are connected to generation control centres that channel the consignment orders issued by the system operator.
Electricity generated using the significant wind resource at our country’s disposal is contributing to achieving the fundamental objective of environmental, social and economic sustainability, based on the three cornerstones of the national energy policy (which is in line with that of the European Union): supply security and internal market, international competitiveness, and sustainability and environmental protection. An example of this is the fact that in 2009, wind power avoided the importation of around 8.5 million tonnes of petroleum equivalent, and the emission of 13.3 million tonnes of CO2, compared to natural gas combined cycle plants. In order to consolidate and guarantee the future growth of the wind industry in Spain, in November 2009 the Council of Ministers authorised the approval of projects presented in the Registry of preliminary assignment of remuneration; establishing a roadmap for installed capacity over the coming years, which will result in 23,700 MW being installed by 2012.
In the longer term, the 2011-2020 Renewable Energies Plan is being formulated, in which wind energy will continue to figure as the renewable technology most used to generate electricity in Spain.
• 19,050 MW of accumulated wind power capacity at 1 January 2010.
• In the early hours of 8 November 2009, wind power covered more than 50% of electricity demand in Spain over five hours.
• Wind power is the second most installed technology after combined cycle plants.
• In 2009, wind power avoided the emission of 13.3 million tonnes of CO2.
• Exports by the sector amount to around Euros 3 billion per annum.
• The wind industry has generated more than 40,000 jobs.
• The sector is comprised of more than 700 companies: 19 wind turbine manufacturers, 270 component manufacturers, 140 wind farm developers, and 277 service providers.