MADRID – In addition to the sun, the wind is an important sustainable energy source in the fight against climate change. Spain produced 22.5% of its electricity completely emission-free in 2020 with wind farms on the mainland. And that’s just the beginning.
According to the Wind Energy 2021 yearbook of the Spanish Wind Energy Association (AEE), Spain has approximately 27.2 GW of installed wind power on land. This makes the country number two in Europe and number five in the world ranking when it comes to generating wind energy on land.
In 2020, Europe had a total installed wind capacity of 220 GW (onshore and offshore). This generated 458 terawatt-hours of sustainable electricity. Which is enough energy for 74 million European households. The AEE also emphasised that approximately 271 million tons less CO2 was emitted as a result of this sustainable method of energy production.
Offshore wind energy
On the high seas, the wind is stronger, more frequent, and more constant. More energy can be generated with wind turbines at sea than with wind turbines on land. Europe today has 25 GW of offshore wind power. On the other hand, the development of offshore wind energy in Spain is still in its infancy with only a few prototypes of floating wind turbines in test laboratories in the Canary Islands, in the Basque Country, and Cantabria. However, that will soon change. At least that is what the Spanish government has in mind.
Floating Wind Turbines
By 2030, Spain aims to realize between 1 and 3 gigawatts of floating offshore wind energy and generate up to 60 MW of energy from water. This is evidenced by the draft roadmap for the “Development of Offshore Wind and Marine Energy in Spain” published by the Ministry of Ecological Transition and Demography during the month of July.
The Spanish coasts have great wind potential. According to an analysis by Global Wind Energy Council, Spain has an offshore wind capacity of up to 219 GW; 12 GW with a fixed construction (seabed up to 50 metres deep) and 207 GW with a floating construction (seabed from 50 to 1000 metres deep).
In addition, the analysis shows that the areas of the Costa Brava, the coasts near the Strait of Gibraltar and the Costa da Morte with a total coastline of 6000 kilometres are extremely suitable for generating energy from waves and tides.
The realisation of 1 to 3 gigawatts of floating wind energy by 2030 may seem like a modest goal. However, this can be explained by the fact that offshore wind turbines with a fixed construction are currently the most cost-effective from a commercial point of view. However, it can only be applied to shallow sea beds up to 50 metres. And that is a depth that is not very common on the Spanish coasts.
Spain hub for wind industry
Another action point on the roadmap is to make Spain a hub for the wind industry; a European innovation centre in the field of renewable energy sources, in particular floating offshore wind energy. The country wants to export cutting-edge technology and create high-quality employment in a future market.
Some €200 million will be earmarked for this between 2021 and 2023 under the Recovery, Transformation and Resilience Plan (PRTR).
Windmills on land or at sea?
The difference between wind turbines on land or at sea mainly lies in the construction, installation, and maintenance work due to erosion and the corrosive capacity of water. This is one of the biggest challenges of offshore wind energy. An installation at sea requires specialised equipment and highly trained personnel.
An advantage of offshore wind turbines is that the wind turbines can be transported by large ships. This allows offshore wind farms to have a capacity of between 10 and 15 MW. Transporting wind turbines on land is a huge logistical operation that requires special transport. Onshore wind farms therefore generally have a capacity of 5 to 8 MW.