Wind energy is in a position to make a significant contribution to Spain’s electricity supply. Its supply of 16.4% of the power demand in 2010 is up from 14.4% in 2009, placing it behind only combined cycle gas and nuclear power. The share of renewable, nuclear and gas in meeting energy demand has been increasing in the country and fossil fuels have been declining.
At one point, on 9 November 2010, wind accounted for 45% of the country’s power demand. To balance demand and supply, 1,498 MW of power was exported and 1,951 MW was stored in pumped storage.
Wind power has grown much more rapidly than expected. When the first renewable energy plan was enacted in the late 1990s, energy demand was predicted to increase by 1.2% per year, but demand has exceeded that growth running at around 3 to 4%.
A 2008 analysis by Maria Isabel Blanco of the University of Alcalá estimated the industry provided 20,500 jobs in Spain, some 3,500 more than in Denmark. The European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) estimates that in 2009 more than 41,000 people were employed in the sector, with wind contributing EUR 3.5 billion towards the country’s GDP. This is in contrast to figures by the AEE that 35,719 people were employed in the sector at the end of 2009, down 5,000 from 2008.
The fast growth experienced to date was triggered by a federal requirement that utilities pay a premium price for electricity from wind over the first five years of the project, an incentive similar to the feed-in tariff that spurred the German wind energy market. Local governments have also required that a large share of investments, such as manufacturing and construction, remain in the local economy.
Targets for wind power in Spain have been set both by the central government and each region. The country’s current National Renewable Energy Action Plan (NREAP) expects wind to provide 19.5% of electricity demand in 2020, placing it behind natural gas, which will have a 35.4% market share. Installed wind capacity is expected to be 38 GW, comprising 35 GW onshore capacity and 3 GW offshore.
The targets of the regions amount to double the national target, with 39,000 MW installed between 2010 and 2012. As of early 2011, discussions were taking place to establish where the national and regional targets would converge.