An opportunity is never lost. If you let it pass, someone else will take advantage of it, goes the popular adage. This reflection is applicable to many aspects of a person's life, but also to situations that can condition the future model of a society or a country.
We live in a turbulent international context, facing major challenges in both the geostrategic and environmental spheres. The crisis resulting from the war between Ukraine and Russia and its impact on relations between the major powers, as well as the climate challenge facing the planet, have placed the energy sector at the epicenter of this paradigm shift that is shaping the future of global society.
This double challenge can be met by an energy source that is constantly growing: offshore wind power. This clean, efficient and sustainable energy source generated 6.8 gigawatts (GW) worldwide in the first half of 2022, four times more than in the same period of the previous year, according to data from the World Forum Offshore Wind.
The Old Continent is aware of the importance of not lagging behind and, therefore, the European Parliament in the resolution European Strategy for Marine Renewable Energy, last February 16, already established, for all the sea basins of the European Union, a minimum target between 70 and 79 GW in 2030.
The potential of the Spanish coast
Spain is firmly committed to contributing to this objective, largely because it needs to face a particularly complex scenario. In addition to its energy singularity, determined by the lack of connection of the Iberian Peninsula with other countries, there is the rising cost of the bill, due to the drought that has reduced hydroelectric production, and an Iberian derogation agreed in June with the EU that has not managed to curb the escalation of prices.
Although we are still at the starting blocks, we have all the winds in our favor to become a world reference in offshore wind power. Namely: 8,000 kilometers of coastline with the potential to house floating wind farms and a first-class port infrastructure; excellent wind resources, in addition to a track record in coastal engineering and public works of the highest level.
We have, therefore, all the conditions to make a sector a reality that will not only provide clean and renewable energy, but will also be an engine of economic dynamism that will boost industrial sectors with high added value and a high degree of technological maturity. This is the case of civil engineering, shipyards, shipbuilding or industries such as logistics, metallurgy and construction, to mention just a few.
However, the country's commitment to offshore wind energy is not free of obstacles that can make it difficult to take full advantage of it. To begin with, we need more ambitious energy generation targets, a much more streamlined administrative process and an approach that is much more grounded in reality.
The legal framework that determines the playing field is the Roadmap for the development of offshore wind and sea energy in Spain, which envisages a capacity of between 1 and 3 GW by 2030. This forecast means using just 0.8% of the maritime space for this purpose. With a more ambitious approach, Spain could reach a capacity of 10 GW, in line with countries such as Portugal.
Secondly, in order to take advantage of the offshore wind energy opportunity, it is essential to speed up the regulatory process as much as possible, which is already behind schedule and is detrimental to the sector as a whole.
Likewise, it is essential that the tenders for awarding projects include all the maritime demarcations authorized for the development of offshore wind power. A single project per area would greatly limit the business expectations of developers, which, like any business project, require a regulatory scenario that enables the viability of a profitable and sustainable investment.
Priority for floating wind power
Likewise, it is essential that the drafting of the bidding documents prioritize companies with experience in the development of floating offshore wind power, as this is a guarantee of success. Let us not forget that the handicap of the narrowness of the continental shelf in Spain will mean that most of the wind farms cannot be supported by fixed foundations, which to date require a depth of less than 50 meters.
In this respect, we will not only have to be agile in the awarding of contracts, but it will also be important to facilitate the administrative and environmental authorizations that the successful bidders must complete.
Along these lines, the development of offshore wind represents a technological challenge of the first magnitude. The offshore areas contemplated in the five Marine Spatial Management Plans have a depth of between 150 and 800 meters. This difficulty will force engineering companies to find bold solutions so that foundations can be installed at these depths with appropriate anchoring systems.
Nor can we overlook the fact that as projects take shape, it will be necessary to facilitate the expansion of port facilities in order to provide shipyards and other manufacturers with sufficient space and avoid the bottleneck effect. To this end, we must urgently establish a channel for dialogue between the various actors involved (ports, shipyards, institutions, developers, etc.).
Offshore wind represents a key opportunity to embark on a new journey towards a sustainable environment for people and the planet. It is up to our collective effort to take advantage of it to win the future that our society deserves.
Dorleta Marina is project manager at IberBlue Wind.