panish construction and energy group Acciona hopes a mammoth wind energy project off southern Spain will clear bureaucratic and technical hurdles and be ready to launch in about three years, a senior executive said.
“The project is still alive,” Fermin Gembero, executive director of Acciona Energia, told Reuters in an interview on Thursday.
Acciona is planning to spend 2 billion euros (US$2.5 billion) setting up giant windmills far offshore, but it first needs a guarantee it can sell the energy at an attractive price and regulatory changes.
“Offshore is extraordinarily expensive. It costs twice as much to put windmills in the sea as it does on land,” he said.
“Of course it needs a higher electricity price … something like a special premium because it implies greater risk.”
The 1,000 megawatt Trafalgar project would be situated 14 to 20 km (9 to 13 miles) off the coast of southern Spain, before the continental shelf plunges.
It involves building windmills of at least 3 megawatts each with 50 metre (160 foot) blades. These are so difficult to transport that they would have to be produced at a new factory close by, which is also part of the project.
Acciona has included fish farms in the project, anchored to the windmill posts, to help overcome the opposition of local fishermen, Gembero said.
Spain is the second biggest wind energy generator in Europe after Denmark. But the best sites on the mainland are already studded with windmills – some 13,000 in all – which generated 8 percent of the country’s electricity last year.
Acciona says the administrative hurdles the offshore project must clear are multiple. It is also pushing for the government to set up a one-stop shop where it could resolve them all at once as part of a new renewable energy law.
RENEWABLE ENERGY LAW DUE THIS YEAR
The law, due to be finalised by the end of this year, is now at a consultative stage, and Acciona hopes to be able to influence the shape of it.
“We think it’s legitimate to give renewable energy a tariff premium because of the environmental benefits it provides,” Gembero said.
The company, originally a construction heavyweight but now a diversified group with a focus on sustainable energy and transport, leapt into the news this week by buying 10 percent of Spain’s biggest power firm Endesa.
The move turned Acciona into a potential white knight for Endesa, just when the European Commission had thrown out the Spanish government’s attempts to stop it being taken over by Germany’s E.ON.
Analysts say the investment, independently of who ends up controlling Endesa, should win Acciona friends and influence in the Industry Ministry.
Acciona has no plans to float part of the energy division on the stock market, despite having said its value – some 5 billion euros – was not adequately reflected in the group’s share price.
“So far we haven’t needed the money for projects … so why go to the stock market,” Gembero said. “It isn’t even on the table.”
The company has always found adequate bank financing when it needed to, he said.
Story by Julia Hayley and Daniel de la Puente
Reuters News Service
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