The recent news from Iberdrola and Acciona about offshore projects in Spain has reactivated media interest in this type of project. Iberdrola is even talking about having the project in operation by 2026. Will we really see commercial offshore projects in Spain this decade? Is Spain ready to develop offshore projects? I think it is a good time to review the situation of offshore wind in Spain and try to clarify these and other questions.
The development of offshore wind projects is a very complex process where many mechanisms need to be put in place. Let’s look at the most important ones
The current PNIEC does not include specific installation target figures. Only the Canary Islands has defined a target of 310MW for 2025.
A zoning of the coast was carried out in 2009, but it is obsolete.
On 31 March this year, the new Maritime Spatial Plans (POEM) were expected to be published, which will serve as the basis for defining the areas suitable for offshore wind development. Recent news reports indicate that this key regulation for development is about to be published by the IDAE.
In 2007, RD 1028/2007 was published as a guide for the permitting of offshore projects.
It is considered a fairly well-structured procedure but the reality is that no project applied for at the time actually progressed through the process.
There is no special tariff defined for offshore wind. In principle, it would make sense to launch auctions for offshore projects within the renewable auction mechanism launched in 2020, but there are no plans to do so.
Projects under development
- Technological prototypes
For the moment, these are the only offshore experiences in Spain. The most relevant are the following:
- Elisa from Esteyco: 5 MW turbine by Gamesa with a telescopic tower by Esteyco. Installed in the Canary Islands
Very interesting things are being done in this field, especially in floating wind turbines, so we will soon dedicate an article to review the main Spanish offshore developments.
- Projects in the Canary Islands
As we have already mentioned, the Canary Islands is the region that has made the strongest commitment to offshore and there are already projects announced:
- Greenalia: 5 projects (250 MW) with floating foundations.
- Equinor: 1 project of 200 MW, also floating. It should be remembered that Equinor is the true pioneer in floating wind power and the promoter of the most important projects with this technology worldwide.
- Ocean Winds: the consortium formed by Engie and EDP is planning a 144MW floating wind farm.
- Naturgy: a 50MW project
- Other projects
- Iberdrola: 300MW floating offshore wind farm. The location is not specified but it is announced that it will be operational in 2026 and that it will have an investment of €1000m.
- Acciona: It has not announced any specific project but its recent announcement of an alliance with SSE, one of the UK’s offshore giants, for the joint development of offshore projects in Spain and Portugal is very relevant.
- EnerOcean: 180MW floating project with W2Power’s floating biturbine concept. It is scheduled to be installed in 2024.
- Mar de Trafalgar (Cádiz): a multitude of projects were launched 10 years ago by companies such as Acciona, Iberdrola and Endesa in the best (and almost the only) area of the coastline where fixed foundation farms could be set up. All the projects are paralysed and it will be difficult to reactivate them as there was a lot of local opposition at the time. We will see if the new POEM enables this area and if so, what happens to the requested projects.
WHEN WILL WE SEE THE FIRST OFFSHORE WINDFARM OPERATING IN SPAIN?
As we have mentioned, the Canary Islands aims to have 300MW operating by 2025 and Iberdrola wants to have 300MW by 2026. But the reality is that the development of offshore projects is a real long-distance race where it takes about 10 years to develop a project. We only have to look at the examples of countries such as the USA or France where projects have been in the pipeline for more than 10 years and still none are in operation (beyond the pilot project in the USA). But even in the market with the most experience and volume which is the UK, The Crown Estate estimates that it takes more than 10 years to complete the whole process until operation.
In the case of the Canary Islands, these times could be reduced with accelerated procedures, but even so, it seems impossible that in 4 years we will have projects in operation. If we add to this the fact that floating technology is more complex and expensive than fixed technology, it is easy to conclude that it is very difficult to see wind farms operating in this decade. So why the dates announced? It probably has to do with the criteria for applying for European funds that require these deadlines in the projects.
WHAT IS NEEDED TO SPEED UP THE PROCESS
After this reality check, let’s move on to the constructive part of the post and see what pieces are missing to develop projects in Spain and how the whole process can be accelerated.
There are 10 countries in Europe with binding targets for offshore installation. Spain should update the PNIEC to reflect a realistic but ambitious target that allows planning of auctions and procedures.
2. Development zones
The POEM will be a fundamental piece for this but to accelerate the process of leasing zones, an auction process for such leasing should be designed as exists in the UK, where 4 auctions have already been held, the last one just a few weeks ago.
3. Grid connection
This is one of the most complex points of offshore. It requires centralised planning well in advance. Depending on the country, the connection is paid for by the state (e.g. Germany) or by the developer (e.g. UK). In Spain, REE would be responsible for the planning and connection permits for each allocated area.
No offshore project is viable at current market prices. Floating ones even less so as they are much more expensive than fixed ones. Special auctions are required for these projects. Perhaps the most successful are those in the UK where CfD (Contracts for Difference) are awarded, a system very similar to the auctions that have already been launched in Spain.
RD1028 would need to be updated to bring it into line with the rest of the process.
The Spanish coastline is very deep so, except in the Mar de Trafalgar area in Cadiz, all other potential projects will have to be floating. This is an added difficulty as the technology is still under development and the costs are very high, but at the same time it is a great opportunity to lead the world in an industry where other countries such as Norway, Japan and France are already very active. In fact France has just announced a tender for 270MW floating offshore. Prototypes and pilot projects need to be supported and accelerated in order to mature the different technological concepts and reduce their costs. Innoenergy’s recent report on floating technology in Spain explores these issues in depth.
The conclusion this time has the format of a classic joke: good news and bad news: the bad news is that we will probably not see commercial offshore projects operating off the coast of Spain in this decade and the good news is that, if we do things right, Spain could be a world power in floating offshore both in terms of installation and technology. To this end, a comprehensive regulation is urgently needed to provide a clear framework for development zones, grid connection, permitting and tariffs.