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Favourable breezes boost Spain’s wind power sector

VILLAR DE LOS NAVARROS (AFP) – Buoyed by a surge in investment and new projects, wind power has become Spain’s main source of electricity generation just as Europe seeks to curb its energy imports from Russia.

“We are on suitable ground here,” said project director at Enel Green Power Espana Joaquin Garcia Latorre pointing to gigantic masts erected on the heights of the tiny northeastern village of Villar de los Navarros.

The Spanish-Italian firm picked this spot, which is well exposed to the wind, to set up a 180-megawatt wind farm, one of the country’s biggest.

Dubbed Tico Wind, its 43 wind turbines started producing power in November, said Latorre while workers around him tended to the turbines, which are over 100 metres high.

“There are between 2,500 and 3,000 hours of wind here per year,” he added.

Wind farm in Villar de los Navarros, Zaragoza province in Spain. PHOTO: AFP

The wind farm will be able to produce 471 gigawatt hours per year – enough to meet the demands of 148,000 households – after it becomes fully operational in a month.

These types of projects have popped up across Spain in recent years, making it Europe’s second-biggest wind power producer after Germany for installed capacity and the world’s fifth biggest.

Wind power became the main source of electricity production in Spain last year, accounting for 23 per cent, ahead of nuclear (21 per cent) and gas (17 per cent), according to national grid operator REE.

The sector “benefits from a favourable situation” although “brakes” remain on its development, such as a dependency on government auctions, said Francisco Valverde Sanchez, renewables specialist at electricity consultants Menta Energia.

Following a boom in the 2000s thanks to generous public financial aid, the sector suffered a sudden halt when subsidies were slashed in 2013 during Spain’s economic crisis.

It has since charged ahead. Spain, which has a total of 1,265 wind farms, had an installed wind power capacity of 28.1 gigawatts in 2021, up from 23.4 gigawatts in 2018, according to industry group AEE.

With large swathes of sparsely populated land, a favourable legal framework and cutting edge wind turbine makers, Spain is one of the most “interesting” markets for wind power investors, said AEE Director General Juan Virgilio Marquez.