Spain has embarked on a massive deployment of new renewable plants. In recent years of continuous and accelerated growth, there have been repeated records of expansion with new installations and electricity production with green energies. However, in recent months there has been a sharp drop in one of the key statistics for measuring the evolution of the expansion of renewables and the procedures for their commissioning.
Red Eléctrica de España (REE), manager of the electricity system and operator of the high-voltage grid, publishes monthly data on access permits and grid connection for wind and photovoltaic plants. These records provide information on the grid access capacity of facilities that already have a permit and are operational; those that have a permit but are not yet in service; and projects that have requested a permit but for which the manager has not yet made a decision.
After years of constantly rising figures, dozens of renewable plants have disappeared from the statistics of facilities already in operation in the last few weeks, despite the fact that they are still in operation, which had generated uncertainty in some energy companies and in some associations of the sector. The latest update published by REE reflects that in Spain there were wind and photovoltaic plants in operation with capacity for connection to the grid of 42,500 megawatts (MW), although previously there had been more than 49,000 MW.
Neither has the expansion of renewables in Spain been truncated nor have plants that were in operation begun to close, but there has been a change in accounting that has temporarily made these data disappear and that, in addition, anticipates a new boom that is coming in the renewables sector in Spain: that of hybridization of green plants.
Expansion of hybrid plants
Hybridization is a process that involves combining several energies in the same installation to make better use of existing land and grid access infrastructures. The hybridization that will become the most common is toplace solar panels between the wind turbines of wind farms, but it is also possible to combine any technology with a renewable one or to combine green electricity generation equipment with storage.
Red Eléctrica has decided to disaggregate from these monthly statistics the data of all the plants that have requested hybridization. When an installation is hybridized, the technology is no longer purely wind or solar and therefore no longer appears in the statistical sections used until now. The group is working to improve the information published and to include these new types of installations as a specific section in the near future.
The data accumulated so far on requests for hybridization of plants anticipate that this modality will play a relevant role in the national green sector. REE has accumulated hybridization requests for 6,800 megawatts of grid access capacity , according to official company sources confirmed to EL PERIÓDICO DE ESPAÑA, part of the Prensa Ibérica group. These are the 6,800 MW that have disappeared from the statistics and that at some point will reappear, but which already confirm the interest of the renewable sector in joining this practice to squeeze the most out of its installations.
Coveted grid access
Grid access points have become a coveted treasure for energy companies. The saturation of the grid in some areas and the boom of new renewable plants has turned these connection points into a scarce and highly disputed asset, even generating speculative movements of resale of projects just to have the permission to plug into the grid. The hybridization of different technologies in a single plant serves to take better advantage of this connection to the grid and provide greater stability to the supply from a single point of discharge.
Industry giants such as Iberdrola, Endesa, Naturgy, EDP or Acciona have joined the strategy of hybridizing plants and have millionaire plans to build new plants of this type or to refurbish and adapt existing facilities, both in Spain and in other countries. In most cases, these are projects to combine wind and photovoltaic energy in the same installation.