Spain is investing heavily in floating offshore wind farms

by Lorraine Williamson
floating wind farms

MADRID – By 2030, Spain aims to have 15 to 17 floating offshore wind farms. To achieve this, the country must take the lead in developing a new technology that also opens the door to international markets. 

Moreover, floating offshore wind energy is seen as a great promise for the future. This became apparent during the ‘WindEurope Annual Event 2022‘ that was held from 5 to 7 April in Barakaldo, Basque. This is the industry’s premier event where the latest developments in wind energy are presented. The Spanish news agency EFE explains the new technology for floating wind energy with the help of the president of the Spanish Wind Energy Association (AEE), Juan Virgilio Márquez. 

Why does Spain not yet have windmills at sea? 

However, Spain has no windmills at sea yet, because the seabed is much too deep. Offshore wind turbines with a fixed construction, where the wind turbines are fixed on the seabed, can only be used for shallow seabeds up to 50 metres. This depth is rare in Spanish waters. That is why floating wind farms, which are not anchored to the seabed, are the solution for Spain. 

Spanish leadership 

Spain is the world’s first prototype developer in the field of floating wind energy. Of the thirteen floating test installations that are currently available, eleven are of Spanish manufacture. Prototypes have been placed on the Spanish coasts in the Canary Islands and Biscay. The development of floating offshore wind energy is still in its infancy. However, this offers the Spanish industry the opportunity to maintain its leadership role in the sector. In addition, European funds can be used for the development of this new technology. 

Advantages of floating wind turbines 

Floating wind turbines are built in the harbour and towed to their destination. The fixed construction offshore turbines, on the other hand, have to be built at sea using huge cranes, which are considerably more complex. Once installed, floating wind turbines can generate more energy than onshore wind turbines, because the wind blows harder, more frequently, and more consistently on the high seas. In addition, the visual impact is minimal, as they are placed far from the coast. 

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Environmental statement long-term work 

However, the environmental statement for floating wind farms is complicated and takes about six years to process. This is because little is known about the effects of floating parks on the marine environment. In addition, locations in the sea must be sought that do not disrupt fishing and shipping. 

A step-by-step plan for 3 gigawatts of offshore wind energy 

In December 2021, the Spanish government approved a roadmap for the realisation of 3 gigawatts of offshore wind energy by 2030. The capacity of offshore wind turbines in 2028-2029 is expected to be about 15 megawatts per machine. This means 15 to 17 wind farms with 15 to 17 wind turbines each. Therefore, the Spanish coastline of 7000 kilometres offers enough space for placing the parks. 

The first step is the approval of the zoning plan for the marine space. This is to determine the locations of future wind farms and to arrange coexistence with other activities. This is expected to happen in the second quarter of this year. The next step is the announcement of the first tender at the end of this year. The tender will be launched in the first quarter of 2023. Three issues must be addressed in the tender;

  • Availability of the area for conducting tests and measurements.
  • Guarantee for access to and connection to the electricity grid when the park is put into operation.
  • Determination of the compensation that the developer receives for each megawatt produced.

The goal is to be fully operational in 2028-2029. 

Also read: Offshore wind farms and tidal energy

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