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Mon, Jul 24, 2006 - Page 11 News List

Spain leads way in renewable energy

LOTS OF WATTS The power generated by wind farms and the sun is growing quickly, and some companies are reporting higher profits from the switch to renewables


Even as Britain, following a detailed review, mulls the need for increased nuclear capacity, Spain has the bit between its teeth as it champions renewable energy.

Spain is in the EU renewables vanguard as the EU targets a 20 percent share of overall energy production by 2010, compared with a projected 3 percent for Japan.

Wind farms are a major part of the national strategy and the share of overall wind farm-generated production is set to double to 12 percent over the next four years -- giving some 20,000 megawatts (MW) of installed capacity.

While such comparisons are not precise, in the US, 1MW of wind power generates about as much electricity as 240-300 homes use, according to the American Wind Energy Association.

Currently, Spain, where the energy market was deregulated in 1998, is second only to Germany and just ahead of the US in terms of installed wind power capacity, at 8,155MW in December 2004, compared with 14,000MW for Germany.

Analysts say Chinese capacity could hit 30 gigawatts (GW or 30,000MW) by 2020, underscoring Spanish interest in that market.

Solar power is also on the rise, with Spain's photovoltaic association ASIF forecasting growth of up to 1,100MW by 2010, exceeding government forecasts more than twice over.

Spain's first polysilicon solar plant came on stream only last month on the outskirts of the southern city of Cadiz.

Iberdrola, Spain's second largest indigenous producer of electricity, said on Thursday that a surge in its renewable energy business had helped lift first-half net profit by 25 percent to 817.8 million euros (US$1 billion), well above forecasts.

Earlier, the firm announced it had raised its stake in the Spanish wind farm specialist Gamesa to 17 percent as part of a move to focus its interests on renewable sources.

According to financial director Jose Sainz Armada, Iberdrola expects production at its renewable energy division to grow "by 10-12 percent in the second half of this year."

The wind generated portion of the firm's energy output is barely 14 percent of the 27,993MW total at present, but Iberdrola says the target is to lift that to nearer 33 percent for a total 10,000MW by 2011.

The link up with Gamesa "is seen as an important plank in a renewables strategy whose growing importance cannot be underestimated," an energy analyst at a leading European bank said on Friday.

Gamesa has become a trailblazer in recent years, exporting its wind technology to China, the US and France.

The company is the second-biggest producer of wind turbines in the world behind Danish rival Vestas Wind Systems and won orders last year to install 520 wind turbines worth 234 million euros.

More than half of those were from China, where Gamesa already covers 36 percent of the renewable energy market.

Iberdrola itself recently bought out US operator Community Energy (CEI) and agreed to take a 29 percent stake in China's Guanxi Guidong Electric.

The Spanish group is also tackling renewables projects from Britain to Brazil and has 16,000MW worth of projects in China, the US and France alone.

"That makes us the biggest wind energy producer in the world," the firm claims.

Regarding nuclear power, Spain has nine plants in operation that account for 23 percent of all energy production, a level comparable with the US and Britain but far behind France's 78 percent.

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