Spain urged to expedite laws or risk missing floating wind target

Spain needs new regulation for floating wind permits and auctions within months to meet its target of 3 GW by 2030, industry officials warn.

In February, the Spanish government designated 5,000 square kilometers (km2) of maritime areas for offshore wind development, the first step towards its goal of installing 3 GW by 2030.

The National Maritime Spatial Planning (MSP) sets out 19 blocs for offshore wind projects in four regions: the North Atlantic, the Andalusian, the Canary Islands and Cataluna and Menorca.

Spain's deep waters will require floating wind technology and the government is preparing permits and regulations to launch the first maritime wind offshore auction this year, a spokesperson at Spain's energy and environment ministry (Miteco) told Reuters Events.

The first auction is expected to focus on the Canary Islands, followed by wider deployment off the coast of mainland Spain. The total offshore wind area in the MSP could host 20 GW.

The government must now approve permitting procedures and an auction model in the coming months to ensure the auction is launched this year, Tomas Romagosa, technical director of Spain's wind industry association (AEE), said.

To speed up deployment, the government could allocate lease areas, subsidised power contracts and grid connections in a combined auction.

"We must run to meet the target in 2030," Romagosa said. "The development [of] a typical offshore wind farm takes around seven years...If we want to achieve 3 GW in 2030, projects must be auctioned and allocated this year or in 2024 at the latest."

Rapid action

Several other European countries are rolling out their first floating wind tenders, following years of deployment of fixed-bottom projects. Spain's lack of previous offshore wind deployment means it will require a rapid buildout of regulation alongside new port and supply chain infrastructure. To attract investors, regular auctions will be required in the coming years.

                         Installed wind capacity in Europe at end of 2022

                                                                  (Click image to enlarge)

Source: WindEurope

The government is yet to finalise the criteria it will use in its auctions, Romagosa warned.

Auction regulations could be established through a royal decree within around three months, if there is "political ambition," he said. Regional elections this month and national elections by the end of the year could delay the regulatory approval process.

Spain would need to deploy 200 large offshore wind turbines of 15 MW capacity to achieve its 2030 target, requiring a buildout of port and supply chain infrastructure.

Spain has decades of wind industry expertise but, like many countries, it has few ports with sufficient water depths to handle current floating wind technologies and growing turbine sizes. Innovation could lessen the need for new port infrastructure. In one example, Spanish group Gazelle Wind Power has developed a floating wind platform that reduces draft requirements.

Large-scale arrays are needed to achieve competitive costs, requiring efficient production lines that benefit from economies of series.

Local supply chains must be developed and standardisation of floating structures would help minimise costs, Jon Salazar, CEO of Gazelle, said.

Suppliers should be boosted by recent measures by the European Union to support the buildout of new clean tech factories and temporarily loosen rules on state aid.

Island launch

The Canary Islands lie 100 km west of Morocco and the remote location means local residents currently rely on fossil fuels. Offshore wind capacity would reduce energy bills and there is support from the local government, industry experts say.

                    Canary Islands power supply by generation type

                                                           (Click image to enlarge)

Source: Grid operator Red Electrica

Spain has already tested prototype floating turbines at the Oceanic Platform of the Canary Islands and several companies have announced project plans, including Iberdrola, Greenalia and a partnership between Norway's Equinor and Spain's Naturgy.

Several leading offshore wind developers have partnered with Spanish groups to improve their project bids.

Developer RWE and Spanish engineering company Ferrovial recently joined forces to develop offshore wind opportunities in Spain. Ferrovial has thus far submitted expressions of interest for four offshore wind farms in Spain for a total capacity of 1.8 GW, the companies said in February.

Orsted, the world's largest offshore wind developer, has partnered with Spanish oil group Repsol, a stakeholder in the 25 MW Windfloat Atlantic pilot floating wind farm in Portugal.

"Both companies have the ambition of jointly becoming a leading developer in Spanish floating offshore wind by combining their complementary strengths," the companies said last month.

Winning permits

The area designated in the MSP maritime plan is 38% smaller than proposed in the initial draft and represents less than 0.5% of Spain's waters, but environmental reviews remain a key risk for projects.

Developers have been requesting information on the scope of environmental impact assessments, a Miteco spokesperson said. The environmental review process can take several years, particularly for early projects that encounter issues for the first time.

Some areas could face opposition from local fishing groups and tourism associations, Romagosa said. The Conservative leader of the Galicia province in north-west Spain criticised the government for ignoring the region's opinion on the offshore wind sites and its impact on the large fishing fleet in the region, Reuters reported in February.

"Some particular projects may face social acceptance issues," Romagosa said. "We don't think this is going to hinder the project development but it needs to be managed in parallel with all the regulatory framework so that the projects can be built by 2030 and connect to the grid."

Reporting by Anna Flavia Rochas

Editing by Robin Sayles