The dry “cierzo” that blows through Aragón, Spain, is so strong that one ancient Roman scholar warned that the wind — which regularly reaches more than 100 miles per hour — could upend armies. Now Spain will use its power to fight climate change with what will be one of Europe’s highest-capacity wind farms.
The country recently awarded contracts to energy developer Forestalia Group to build 30 wind farm installations around Aragón by the end of 2019. Together, they will have enough capacity to generate 1,200 megawatts of electricity, sufficient to power nearly a million homes and businesses. GE Renewable Energy will supply nearly 320 of its 3-megawatt turbines, as well as the blades.
The project helps return Spain to its position as a leader in renewable energy. The country has been developing wind and solar power plants since the early 1990s, years before other European countries jumped into renewables with both feet. Abundant sun and wind made up for Spain’s lack of coal and oil and helped Spain become more energy-independent and less vulnerable to fluctuations in oil prices.
But budget setbacks following the global financial crisis stalled those developments. Spain has added virtually no wind capacity since 2011, when it ranked fourth in the world with over 21 gigawatts of installed capacity. But that’s about to change. The new wind farms will make Spain one of the biggest users of wind energy in Europe and will put Spain on a path to meet the European Union requirement for 20 percent renewable energy by 2020.
“This is a growing region that needs more energy,” says Daniel Carreño, CEO of GE Iberia. “It’s exciting to see Spain adding capacity using wind power again.”
The project is a true European one. The tower of the GE 3.8-130 and 85-meter hub-height wind turbines will be made predominately in Spanish manufacturing plants, while the nacelles (turbine covers) will be manufactured at GE’s wind energy factory in Salzbergen, Germany.
LM Wind Power will manufacture the blades. The company is a new GE Renewable Energy acquisition and has plants in Ponferrada and Castellón, Spain. GE’s service center in Spain will support the project. GE estimates the entire project, including construction and support, will create hundreds of new jobs.
“This is a massive project, and it will take all of our efforts and expertise to deliver,” says Jérôme Pécresse, president and CEO of GE Renewable Energy.