Spanish Generation from Wind, Solar & Biomass

As a result of specific policy initiatives to reduce energy imports and greenhouse gas emissions, Spain has achieved substantial growth in its use of wind and solar power in the last 10 years. Wind energy use declined in 2015 due to a lower than average wind year.

This information, from the Spanish electricity system operator (Red Eléctrica de España), is shown  below. 

 

Source: BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2016; Red Eléctrica de España: Informe del Sistema Eléctrico español (2006-2014); SaskPower Annual Reports (2010 & 2015)

 

Electricity generation - all sources

In 2013 wind energy was the single largest component in the generation mix although in 2014 and 2015 nuclear regained and maintained the lead after two years of lower than average wind speeds. Nonetheless Spain generated an impressive 38.6 percent of all their electricity from renewable sources. Note that the following wind, solar & biomass numbers vary slightly, from those shown in the first graphic, due to calculation differences between the two sources. However these differences are not significant. 

 

Source: Red Eléctrica de España 'The Spanish Electricity System 2015'

 

Two points are of particular note;

Graph Title: Interconnection Levels (Import Capacity/Net Generating Capacity) in Europe, 2014

Source: International Energy Agency. Energy Policies of IEA Countries: European Union 2014. Figure 5.17

1) Spain is, from an electrical perspective, relatively isolated. This means that it cannot rely on electricity trading, with other jurisdictions, to balance wind and solar variability. Despite this Spain has been able to deal with substantial amounts of wind and solar (19 and 5 percent respectively).

'Relatively isolated' is of course subjective which is why we have included the IEA map (on the right) which illustrates the degree of electrical interconnection of European countries using an objective measure (Import Capacity/Net Generating Capacity).

Spain's interconnection level is less than 5 percent using this metric. Using the same metric and by reference to SaskPower's 2014 Annual Report; Saskatchewan's Import capacity is 375 megawatts (page 23) while Net Generating Capacity is 4,181 megawatts (page 141) i.e. the Interconnection Level is 9.0 percent.

In other words - Saskatchewan's electrical interconnections are superior to those of Spain. FYI 2015 electricity from wind & solar: Spain - 23.9 percent, Saskatchewan - 2.9 percent.

2) Spain has a relatively large component of inflexible baseload capacity (nuclear and coal). This complicates the situation since baseload requires additional dispatchable firming capacity to cope with fluctuations in net electricity demand (to which inflexible baseload is not able to respond).

Despite these two features - Spain is nonetheless able to cope with significant quantities of variable renewables. What does that tell you about the wind & solar potential for Saskatchewan??

 
 

Real time generation data

The Spanish system operator provides a handy tool which shows, in real time, how its electricity is being generated. The following screen-shot shows total electricity generation (with, in the bottom right, the amount from wind over the corresponding period) for the 27 July 2015. Try this link for real-time data.

 

SourceRed Eléctrica de España. 2015