Spain - Wind industry on route to becoming champions

Share of overall wind farm production set to double to 12 percent over the next four years

Even as Britain, following a detailed review, mulls over the need for increased nuclear capacity, Spain has the bit between its teeth as it champions renewable energy. Spain is in the European Union vanguard as the Union targets renewables for a 20 percent share of overall energy production by 2010, contrasted with a projected 3 percent for Japan, for example. Wind farms are a major part of the Spanish strategy, and the share of overall wind farm production is set to double to 12 percent over the next four years, giving some 20,000 megawatts of installed capacity. In the United States, one megawatt of wind power generates enough electricity for 240 to 300 homes, according to the American Wind Energy Association. Spain, where the energy market was deregulated in 1998, is second only to Germany and just ahead of the United States in terms of installed wind power capacity, at 8,155 megawatts in December 2004, compared with 14,000 megawatts for Germany. Solar power is also on the rise, with the Spanish photovoltaic association, ASIF, forecasting growth of as much as 1,100 megawatts by 2010, exceeding government forecasts more than twice over.

The first polysilicon solar panel plant in Spain came on stream last month on the outskirts of the southern city of Cadiz. Iberdrola, the second-biggest Spanish electricity producer, said Thursday that a surge in its renewable energy business had helped lift first-half net profit by 25 percent to €818 million, or $1.04 billion, well above forecasts. Earlier, the company announced it had raised its stake in the Spanish wind farm specialist Gamesa to 17 percent as part of a move to focus its interests on renewable sources. According to Iberdroa's financial director, José Sáinz Armada, the company expects production at its renewable energy division to grow "by 10 to 12 percent in the second half of this year."

The wind generated portion of the company's energy output is barely 14 percent of the 27,993 megawatts total at present, but Iberdrola says the target is to lift that to nearer 33 percent, or 10,000 megawatts, by 2011. Gamesa has become a trailblazer in recent years, exporting its wind technology to China, the United States and France. The company is the biggest producer of wind turbines in the world after Vestas Wind Systems of Denmark. Gamesa won orders last year to install 520 wind turbines worth €234 million. The Spanish group is also tackling renewables projects from Britain to Brazil and has 16,000 megawatts worth of projects in China, the United States and France alone.

Regarding nuclear power, Spain has nine plants in operation that account for 23 percent of all energy production, a level comparable with the United States and Britain but far behind France's 78 percent. A British energy review last week flagged the need to develop renewable sources, although Prime Minister Tony Blair said in May that nuclear energy was "back on the agenda with a vengeance" amid the need to slash greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent of their 1990 levels by 2010. Spain, which depends heavily on imported supplies of oil and gas, last year unveiled a Renewable Energy Plan. The Spanish plan offers tax incentives for companies that employ clean emission technologies and sees 97 percent of a total €23.6 billion investment coming from the private sector, according to the Institute for the Diversification and Saving of Energy.

A report in 2003 from Greenpeace in France favorably compared using wind power with the prospect of greater reliance on nuclear power. That report quoted the European Wind Energy Association as saying that by 2010, installed wind capacity could equal the output of 14 nuclear reactors. In a world which uses more than 300 billion kilowatt-hours of energy a day and rising, the rush to renewables shows no sign of abating.
Edited by Trevor Sievert, Online Editorial Journalist
wind energy, renewable energy, wind turbine, wind power, wind farm, rotorblade, onshore, offshore

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