European Offshore 2020: Spain, Portugal - No lift-off in Iberian waters

The finanial crisis has left Spain without any offshore prospects, but Spanish firms are gaining experience elsewhere, reports Michael McGovern. Meanwhile, Portugal's growth is on hold.

Wind capacity in Spanish waters remains at zero. Around 35 projects totalling nearly 9.5GW, some dating to the late 1990s, have been on hold since the 2008 economic meltdown. The country's supposedly binding EU commitment to reach 750MW offshore by 2020 is out of reach. "If there's no money to support cheaper onshore sites, much more expensive offshore wind doesn't stand a chance," says Alberto Cena, technical director of wind association AEE.

Spanish developers, especially utility Iberdrola, are gaining experience through big projects in the UK and Germany, with the aim to then turn to the offshore waters of Spain and Portugal at a later stage, says Peter Sweatman of renewables consultants Climate Strategy.

At home, the Spanish industry is focusing on research and development, especially for the floating foundation technology needed to tackle the deep waters near most of the Iberian coastline. But the most ambitious project, the 70MW semi-public Zefir test centre near the Port of Tarragona - with a 50MW floating phase - is on indefinite hold due to lack of financing.

Spain's R&D drive now rests mainly on two EU-funded projects. The EUR36 million Floatgen project is the biggest EU funded wind project. Spain's Gamesa and domestic competitor Acciona are committed to installing a 2MW and 3MW floating turbine, respectively, at deepwater sites in the Mediterranean by 2017. The EUR20 million HiPRWind project had aimed to install a floating 3MW Acciona turbine at a site near Bilbao by summer 2013, but that has now been pushed back to summer 2014.

Reduced revenue due to onshore market shrinkage at home, coupled with financing difficulties, have left a dark cloud over Spain's offshore prospects. French manufacturer Alstom, which had reserved a position at Zefir to test its 6MW offshore turbine, developed entirely in Spain, said: "There is no visibility for offshore in Spain; not even for experimental plants."

Gamesa, still with no turbine installed offshore, offered a glimmer of hope this spring when it installed the offshore 5MW prototype on the Spanish island of Gran Canaria. The foundations, although dry, are on the Arinaga quay, jutting out to sea.

Current offshore capacity: Zero

NREAP 2020 aim: 750MW

Realistic forecast: No change for some years

PORTUGAL

Portugal's 2020 target of 75MW in offshore capacity looks distinctly modest, but it still appears out of reach. The country does at least have some working hardware at sea in the shape of the EU-funded Windfloat prototype, six kilometres off Povoa de Vazim. Its ambitions remain with floating technology reflecting the sharply shelving seabed near its coastline.

Commissioned in June 2012, Windfloat comprises a 2MW Vestas turbine on a floating structure from US firm PrinciplePower, co-developer with EDP Renovaveis and Spanish developer Repsol. EDP declined to confirm the planned 25MW extension to Windfloat was on hold. Wind association Apren knows of no other offshore project moving in the country.

Current offshore capacity: 2MW

NREAP 2020 aim: 75MW

Realistic forecast: No change for some years


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