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Spanish energy companies embark on the promise of floating wind power | Economy

Several wind turbines of a floating wind project in Viana do Castelo (Portugal).
Several wind turbines of a floating wind project in Viana do Castelo (Portugal).VIOLET SANTOS MOURA (REUTERS)

The drip has already started. Two big names in the Spanish energy sector, the oil company Repsol and the electricity and gas company Naturgy, have announced in recent days their first floating wind projects in the Iberian Peninsula, a technology that is still in its infancy but that fits like a glove to its coastal profile : very deep waters a short distance from the coast, which disables any option of installing traditional offshore wind, which requires fixed foundations impossible from 50 meters deep.

They are not the only ones: Iberdrola and other smaller companies have also expressed their interest in participating in a process that seems vital for Spain to be able to meet its climate goals and reduce its dependence on foreign energy. The plans of the Spanish Executive are to reach three gigawatts (GW) of installed floating offshore wind power in 2030. According to information provided by the Ministry for the Ecological Transition five months ago, seven of the 27 “floating solutions for wind turbines” that are now under way throughout the world are Spanish. Generation costs are still notably higher than those of photovoltaic, onshore wind power and fixed offshore wind power, but the proliferation of projects will gradually make it cheaper.

The first to get off the hook this week with a specific plan to enter the field of floating wind power has been Repsol. The firm chaired by Josu Jon Imaz – embarked on a change of model that will take it from the purely oil business on which most of its income statement rests today, to another much more focused on renewable energies – has opened this Tuesday the via the floating hand of the Danish Ørsted, a leading firm in the sector. The ambition of both companies is clear: “To jointly become a leader in the development of floating offshore wind” in Spain.

The agreement between Repsol and Ørsted It goes through “identifying and, where appropriate, jointly developing floating offshore wind projects” on the Spanish coast. The oil company claims to have in renewable generation “one of its pillars of decarbonization”, with the ambition of reaching 20 GW of installed capacity (between wind and solar) in 2030. Ørsted, for his part, already has 11 GW of wind power installed: 7.6 GW at sea and another 3.4 GW on land, and has just opened its first office in Spain. “The supply chain is prepared to enter this technology thanks to decades of experience in supplying the large fleet of onshore wind farms in Spain,” reads the statement with which Repsol has unveiled the project.

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Barely 24 hours later, Naturgy has made public an agreement with the Norwegian Equinor —which already has extensive experience in the field of offshore wind power, both in northern Europe and in the United Kingdom and the United States— to “work together on the analysis and opportunities” of this technology in Spain, “which has great potential in our country”. Both companies will develop a project “that can participate in the first wind auction offshore of Spain”, in Canarian waters.

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In this scenario, Naturgy and Equinor will join forces to explore joint possibilities in the development of this new technology in Spain. In this alliance, the Spanish energy company will contribute its experience in the development of onshore wind power in our country and the Norwegian company will contribute with its proven capabilities in floating technology offshore.

“The development of floating wind power opens a very relevant window of opportunity for Spain, since it allows to take advantage of locations farther from the coast, with excellent wind resources, and act as a driver of the economy through key sectors such as naval or civil ”, affirms the general director of Renewables, New Businesses and Innovation of Naturgy, Jorge Barredo. “This is not only an energy opportunity, but also an industrial one.”

Iberdrola, for its part, has also already presented to the Ministry for the Ecological Transition projects that add up to more than 1,000 MW (1 GW) of offshore wind power in various locations throughout the national geography —Canary Islands, Catalonia, and Galicia— “waiting that the Maritime Space Planning Plan is finally approved, the regulatory framework is established and the competitive concurrence mechanisms are generated by the Ministry that allows progress in the development of projects in the Spanish geography”, according to sources from the company chaired by Ignacio Sánchez Galán.

Of the triumvirate of large Spanish electricity companies, only one —Endesa— has dropped out of these offshore wind development plans. The reason? Its commitment to renewable technologies in a mature phase, such as photovoltaic or onshore wind, and not so much in development. “We will focus on investing in proven technologies, such as photovoltaic solar or onshore wind,” says a spokesperson for the company chaired by José Bogas, who will wait a few years to enter a generation alternative that promises great long-term returns.

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