Two big energy generators in Spain: solar and wind energy account for a third of Spain's electricity
Spain has the chance to shape its future as a major player in renewable technology.
Launched by the European Commission in late 2019, the European Green Deal is a package of policies that aims to set the EU on the path to climate neutrality by the year 2050.
Renewable energies in Spain
Renewable energy is a key pillar of the clean energy transition, and there is an array of directives aimed at driving renewable energy adoption across the continent.
The goal is that by 2030, 45 per cent of the EU’s total energy consumption comes from renewable energy.
In the renewables race, Spain is leading the way. How much of Spain’s energy is renewable? The country reached a decarbonisation milestone in 2023, with energy generated from renewable sources passing the 50 per cent average, ahead of France, Germany, Italy and the UK.
Spain is fast becoming a key player in global energy as it transitions from a net importer of power to becoming a net exporter.
Second leader in Europe
Now free of the supply chain disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Spain’s renewable energy market is back on track, with robust growth expected. Capacity is projected to increase from 72.10 gigawatts in 2023 to 153.67 in 2028, thanks to the country’s ideal weather conditions and a surge in funding at national and regional levels. This would represent an annual growth rate of 16.34 per cent.
Further plans to phase out coal-fired power are expected to unlock even greater renewable energy potential. While the government is enthusiastic about the renewable energy transition, backing green energy tech to the tune of USD$7.7 billion in 2021, Spain has advantages in the private sector too.
There is a healthy combination of public and private funding towards renewable energy driven by major companies in the market. These market leaders include Iberdrola SA; which put into operation the largest solar plant in Europe in August 2022, Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy SA, Acciona SA, Red Electrica Corporacion SA and Cobra Group, among others.
The rise of solar power in Spain
Expect a solar power surge in Spain, thanks to effective national leadership driving the transition at local levels. The nearly 3000 hours of sunshine per year in the southern regions also play an important part in development.
The western region of Extremadura is home to one of the largest solar farms in Europe, comprising one and a half million solar panels. The Francisco Pizarro solar farm will produce enough energy to power an amazing 334,000 homes annually.
By 2030, the aim is to reach a solar capacity of 72 gigawatts, which would be a fivefold increase in a decade.
The adoption of solar power isn’t restricted to vast solar farms or public and private sector initiatives. There has been an increase in the use of solar panels in private households too. In 2021, the use of rooftop solar panels in private homes increased by 102 per cent from the previous year. The infamous sun tax in Spain, limiting private solar energy generation, has also been abolished.
Change in Spain is driven by local communities and cooperatives that can work effectively with devolved local administrations. At the national level, there is a desire for Spain to become more energy-independent and a growing belief that solar represents the best way to achieve that goal.
Wind power in Spain: gaining popularity
In generating over 60,485 gigawatt-hours in 2021, Spain consolidated wind power as a major energy source with a 10 per cent higher output than in the previous year. The country has the fifth-highest wind power capacity in the world, behind China, the USA, Germany and India.
The renewable energy objectives for 2030 require wind energy to increase by 2.2 gigawatts per year. Spain is running slightly behind on these goals, although 842.61 megawatts in 2021 still represents a sizeable growth. Wind energy comprises over 23 per cent of Spain’s total energy consumption, which is set to grow further.
There are currently 1,298 wind farms installed in more than 850 municipalities, with the biggest wind power plants in Spain located in some of the larger, rural regions. The Gecama Wind Project in Castilla-La Mancha is the largest in operation, producing 312 megawatts annually. However, Castilla y Leon is the province leading the way in wind power initiatives, with four of the biggest plants located there, including Torozos Wind Farm, La Lora Bridgepoint, Paramo de Poza and La Dehesilla.
Castilla y Leon leading renewable energy initiatives
Spain’s leading region in renewable energy initiatives, more than 59 per cent of the energy generated in Castilla y Leon in 2022 came from wind farms. The renewable potential of the region is expected to triple in the next decade, accommodating solar and wind power generation.
In recent years, Castilla y Leon has turned to another form of renewable energy: hydrogen generation. The region is home to more than 25 hydrogen generation projects, partly driven by a nine billion euro investment from the government.
Leading the way is the Garray Environmental Business Park in Soria, which will launch in early 2024. Several provincial capitals in the region are considering a switch to hydrogen-powered public transport. There are numerous other initiatives underway to research and develop the hydrogen value chain and its use as a fuel, involving private sector companies and public universities.
Spain’s target for 2030 is for 74 per cent of its energy to be sourced by renewable technology. The country is setting an example for Europe, demonstrating what is possible with national and local government cohesion and an effective combination of public and private sector funding. This has been boosted by the sophisticated application of developing technology by wind and solar companies in Spain.
The country is also making the most of its advantageous geographic position as a tool to unlock solar and wind potential, with the goal of becoming a significant player not only in the EU but also in the global renewable energy market.
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