Wind and solar in Spain – Overview of 2020

What is on its way to becoming yet another post-Christmas tradition, we are publishing for the third consecutive year the summary of how wind and solar photovoltaic energy have performed in Spain, with special attention to the (currently so trendy) price of the electricity pool.

The raw data for this report are publicly available on Entso’s excellent website and on REE’s comprehensive Esios portal.

  1. Daily evolution

  • As usual when viewing this type of graph at daily resolution, it is impressive to see the great variability of wind production, with peaks and lows occurring in the space of hours. The great work of the network operator as well as the wind industry in integrating this variability quite efficiently must be acknowledged
  • Wind power generation reached its daily maximum on December 28th, with 391 GWh of production. That day also saw the maximum combined wind and solar power production of almost 420 GWh.
  • The curious thing is that the minimum wind power production had occurred almost a year earlier, on 1st January 2020, which makes it clear that on the same dates (although separated by a year) wind power can reach its maximum and minimum

  • If we check in more detail the generation structure of 28/12/2020, we can see that at 14:30h, wind power covered 53% of generation and solar power 11%, making coal and gas almost unnecessary.

  • As for solar, its maximum was the 4th of July, exceeding 102 GWh
  1. 2020 vs 2019

  • The solar energy sector has been the main protagonist in 2020, with an annual growth in production of 40%. The wind power industry, however, has not had a good year and its growth has been only 1.5%.

  • But looking only at absolute production can be misleading if we do not cross it with installed capacity. According to the data advanced by REE, 1333 MW of wind power and 2405 MW of solar power have been installed in 2020. This leads to capacity factor values of 20% for solar and 22% for wind.
  • The improvement of the solar CF is probably motivated by a better resource this year (higher irradiance) as well as by an improvement in technology: better panels and inverters and above all, better O&M.
  • As far as wind power is concerned, the decrease in CF compared to 2019 has to be due to the low resource year that neither the technology of the new turbines nor the O&M improvements have been able to offset.

  • In the monthly production graph, the great growth of solar energy in 2020 was clearly seen, while wind energy has quite similar values, with November being a striking month with such a low wind resource, something that is infrequent since it is traditionally one of the best months for wind.
  1. Market prices and renewables

The price of the electricity pool has not been immune to the covid-19 effect and its annual evolution has been totally marked by the months of confinement

  • The large drop in energy demand during the months of March, April and May pushed market prices down to levels never seen before, reaching an average daily price of 4.6 euros/MWh on May 1st. It is curious to remember this data in these days (January 2021) when this same market is reaching record values. But beyond circumstantial situations such as covid-19 or the peak of these days, it seems unlikely that the market, as designed, will return to sustained values above 50 euros/MWh

  1. Bonus track: renewables in Germany

I don’t want to close this article without taking a look at the renewable energy powerhouse in Europe to see how it will behave in 2020 with the help of Fraunhofer’s Energy-Charts portal.

  • For the first time, renewables have accounted for more than 50% of total annual generation in Germany, with wind power being by far the most important source of generation compared to coal.
  • These data are again highly impacted by the drop in demand caused by covid-19 but they are still a historical fact worth noting
  • The still large weight of coal in the generation mix remains the main negative point of 2020. The plan for the early phasing out of nuclear power plants has not helped at all in reducing the weight of thermal power plants and should be avoided in other countries.

In summary, it cannot be said that 2020 has been a bad year for renewables: solar PV has had by far its best year, wind has saved a year of low wind and at last the long-awaited renewable auctions have been activated which will give stability and predictability to the renewable horizon. 2021 should be the year of the definitive take-off of solar and the launch of offshore wind in Spain but let’s turn off the crystal ball for now and leave the predictions for another article.