New wind power record in Spain


25 February 2010


Technical rigidity of nuclear plants avoids full use of available renewables

Wind power has broken again its own power generation record: 12,902 MW at 11:20 on the 24th. However, not all the clean and free energy that wind is delivering these days could be used, because the lack of flexibility of nuclear power plants to modulate their output according to demand variations forced Red Eléctrica (REE, the Spanish TSO) to mandate hundreds of wind mills that were working perfectly to stop.
In the early morning of February 24th, REE had to order 800 MW of wind power to stop for several hours. Thus, at 1:30 wind power was delivering 11,961 MW (44.5% of the 26,674 MW demanded at that time). After REE’s mandate, in just twenty minutes wind power had lowered its output to 10,852 MW (proof of the high flexibility of wind power). Wind generation remained below the amount it could have delivered until 6:30, when it came back to reach 11,547 MW. A similar situation was lived this morning today, February 25th,  between 2:30 and 6:30, with some 1,000 MW of wind power forced to stop.
Meanwhile, during all these days nuclear generation remained unchanged at  7,372 MW, ignoring demand oscillations and renewable energy availability. Unlike gas and coal power plants, that reduced their output to the technical minimum in order to let free and clean renewable energy to be used.
“Nuclear power is currently the biggest obstacle to use renewable energy that is already available. It is urgent to bring forward the schedule to phase out nuclear power plants in order to fully make use of renewables. It is renewables that save CO2 by substituting fossil fuel power plants, something that nuclear plants can’t do due to their rigidity”, said José Luis García Ortega, Greenpeace climate and energy campaigner.
Beyond saving CO2, renewables save us money.  These days of much wind and water when renewable generation is systematically bigger than half the demand, electricity is cheaper than ever: yesterday, the average weighted price of the Iberian pool power market was only 17 €cents/kWh (last year the average annual price moved between 37 and 42 cents/kWh).
High wind power generation is possible thanks to the installed capacity of wind power that reached in Spain 19,149 MW in 2009. Renewables generate more and more energy: in 2009, 26% of electricity consumed in Spain was renewable, 14% wind power, while nuclear supplied only 19%. Thanks to renewables, demand of natural gas lowered by 10.5% in 2009 regarding 2008, and coal power plants were stopped for longer than working.
However, Greenpeace criticises that the Government, instead of supporting renewables and reducing nuclear, is putting more and more obstacles to renewables. The main one is the so-called “pre-allocation registry”, a funnel that limits the amount of renewable capacity that can be installed. Its purpose is to favour utility interests so that their fossil fuel power plants don’t lose too many hours of work because of renewables.
Next June, the Government has to submit a new renewable energy plan with targets for  2020. Greenpeace demands that at least  50% of annual electricity used in Spain be renewable by that date.


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