Friday, 5 January 2024, 14:14
The central government's plans in Spain for a large offshore wind farm in the Alboran Sea has sparked much interest from the renewable energy sector. IberBlue Wind, Ferrovial and ABEI have publicly announced their intention to bid for the site off the coast of Malaga province, although the wind turbines will barely be visible from the shoreline.
IberBlue Wind entered the bidding process first one year ago with its Nao Victoria project (an investment of more than 2,500m euros). Their proposal is a floating wind farm (not fixed to the seabed) with 55 wind turbines, each producing 18 megawatts of power, totalling 990 megawatts of electricity (full capacity). The wind farm would cover 30,000 football pitches (larger than El Hierro, the smallest island in the Canaries), with turbines some 25 to 40km from the coastline between Fuengirola and Marbella.
At full capacity the farm will be capable of supplying around 660,000 homes, as calculated by a renewable energy expert from the University of Malaga. Malaga province currently has around 649,000 homes in total (latest data from INE - Spain’s institute of national statistics).
Julio Vera, director of institutional relations at IberBlue, was keen to tell us that the company is continuing with its Nao Victoria bid alongside a second proposal called La Pinta, running between Granada and Almería. However, both proposals are “on hold” while they await an update from central government.
Ferrovial went public with its project at the beginning of last year. Named Terral, similarly located in the Alboran with a planned output of 510 megawatts, around half that of Iberblue.
The proposal, available on the Ministry for Ecological Transition’s website, will install 34 wind turbines, each producing 15 megawatts of nominal power. Each turbine hub will rise about 125 metres above the platform, in turn rising 143 metres above sea level. The rotor blades will have a diameter of 236 metres.
The wind farm would cover 203 square kilometres in the area called Poem ESAL-1, with platforms mounted on floating substructures at an average depth of 750 metres. Some 45km of cabling would export the electricity to shore with another 13.5km of onshore cabling connecting to the Pinar del Rey electrical substation (near San Roque, Cadiz).
Third to enter (in the autumn of last year) is Neptuno, ABEI’s project, proposing 67 windmills, each producing 15 megawatts of nominal power, totalling 1,005 megawatts.
Its coverage would be some 290 square kilometres in the same zone with some turbines just over 20 kilometres from the coast. As with the other two, turbines will be on floating platforms set on substructures at varying depths of 400 to 1,000 metres, and arranged in nine parallel rows facing north-west to south-east.
The Maritime Space Management Plan (Poem) was approved on 28 February. Poem indicates where, theoretically, offshore wind farms could be built, but without guaranteed approval. So the successful bidder will be assuming all the risk and investment for feasibility and environmental impact studies before receiving the go-ahead.
The sector also complains that Spain has set its sights low for 2030’s climate objectives (one to three gigawatts of connected wind power) compared to Portugal, (five times smaller), aspiring to 10 gigawatts.
Lastly, Spain is already playing catch-up. Many of her ports are incapable of meeting the needs to kit out wind turbines and their floating platforms, meaning bottlenecks for the few places that can.
So, what is the status of the approvals process for offshore wind farms?
We put this question to Julio Vera: “Since Poem was approved, there has been little development. It was expected that bidding would close later this year; then it changed and now it is rumoured that it will be next year, between first and second quarters, everything is being delayed….”
The next milestone that these companies have been waiting an eternity for is the formal call to tender for the contract to build and run this wind farm for an estimated period of 25 to 30 years.
Another unknown is how the electricity generated will be sold - at a fixed rate or some other format. More worryingly is the lack of an answer to the question of how electricity will be brought onshore. In Portugal, for instance, only ‘3-in-1’ contracts are awarded whereby the companies involved must package offshore ops, sale and purchase of electricity and onshore connection.
Most importantly, according to Vera, is that the calendar is finalised for the contracting process. “There are many rumours but nothing concrete, in fact, it is so stagnant in Spain that companies have focused on projects in Portugal, which is expediting matters and taking firm steps in the race for offshore wind.”
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