Spain maps out first boundaries for offshore wind parks
By Charlie Devereux
MADRID (Reuters) -Spain's government on Tuesday approved its first delimitations for where wind farms can be developed off the country's coast, a significant, if contentious, step towards developing the offshore sector.
The decree allows for the development of offshore wind parks on 5,000 square kilometres of maritime area in 19 blocs, Energy Minister Teresa Ribera told a news conference.
With about 1 million square km of waters, Spain has one of the largest expanses of sea in the European Union and vast potential for harnessing offshore wind.
A regional leader in renewable power generation, Spain has, however, trailed its European peers such as Britain, the Netherlands and Denmark in developing offshore wind capacity.
The delimitations, which were developed following five years of negotiations with other stakeholders in the maritime sector, including regional governments and the powerful fishing and tourism industries, will restrict offshore wind activity to less than 0.5% of its waters but will be reviewed every six years.
But Alfonso Rueda, the conservative regional leader of the northwestern region of Galicia, home to Spain's largest fishing fleet, said the government had ignored Galicia's opinion on the matter and warned that he won't authorise any offshore wind farms if they endanger fish stocks.
Environmental organisations in the northeastern region of Catalonia criticised the plan to build marine wind farms around the Gulf of Roses, near the French border, which they said could occupy an area of 250 square km.
"Until now, this was an area of special protection given its exceptional natural values which was incompatible with large energy infrastructures," five environmental organisations said in a statement. "It has (now) become totally unprotected."
Spain is expected to announce tenders to develop wind farms this year that would be operational by the end of the decade, Joan Groizard, managing director of the state-run Institute for Energy Diversification and Saving, told La Vanguardia newspaper.
Spain has said it aims to develop as much as 3 gigawatts (GW) of installed offshore capacity by 2030.
Spanish engineering company Ferrovial, which this month signed a memorandum of understanding with renewable energy developer RWE to develop offshore wind farms, has said it expects the new delimitations to allow for more than 20 GW of offshore capacity.
(Reporting by Charlie Devereux; Additional reporting by Joan Faus and Emma Pinedo; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta and Ed Osmond)