Spain capitalizes on the commitment it made to renewables 15 years ago and becomes a world benchmark in the sector
The commitment that Spain made fifteen years ago to renewables is bearing fruit at a key moment in the emergence of wind and photovoltaic projects throughout Europe due to the commitments made by the States with Brussels to reduce CO2 emissions. The president of the Government, Pedro Sanchez, highlighted two weeks ago in Croatia the potential of Spanish renewable industrial companies as “world leaders”.
The numbers confirm that the sector is an international benchmark. Spain is the second country in the world with the most renewable energy patents per inhabitant, only behind Germany and ahead of the United States; the third world exporter of wind turbines after Denmark and Germany; It has leading companies such as Power Electronics, which is the main manufacturer of solar inverters (which convert the continuous energy captured by the plates into alternating ones) in Europe and America; and it already produces 90% of the components of the wind farms and 60% of the solar ones.
Factories in Spain produce 90% of the elements of wind farms
The sector is about to receive a shower of 6,000 million from European reconstruction funds, focused on finding solutions for storage (such as gigafactories of batteries for the electric car) and the promotion of green hydrogen (produced with renewable energy) which is key for the decarbonization of sectors such as transport or industry. The companies focused on exports after the Great Recession of 2008 that stopped the deployment of wind and photovoltaic parks in the country and are now at full power to meet climate objectives and so that by 2030 74% of the energy produced in Spain it comes from renewable sources.
The wind power company insists on the potential of the industry. “The wind sector, with 250 industrial centers in Spain, is a significant case of development with a presence in 100% of the value chain. It has an impact on the economy of 4,000 million euros (0.35% of GDP) , with exports valued at 2,000 million euros and 600 million paid in taxes and fees “, underlines Juan Virgilio Marquez, General Director of the Wind Business Association (AEE). “The sector generates quality and long-term employment. It already employs 30,000 people and the forecast is to double these jobs before 2030,” he adds.
The photovoltaic industry had a direct contribution to the Spanish GDP of 3,717 million euros in 2020, employed 58,892 workers and exported a value of 2,000 million euros, according to data from the UNEF (Spanish Photovoltaic Union). Spanish companies are at the fore in the manufacture of structures and all electrical components for solar parks, but the pending issue is the production of solar panels, which are imported from China.
Jose Donoso, President of UNEF, stresses that Spain is a world leader in photovoltaic technology. “Spain invested a lot in research in the middle of the first decade of the century and now we are reaping the rewards. Among the 10 strongest companies of solar trackers (the technology that makes the plate look to the sun) five are Spanish and of the ten are investors three are national “.
The president of the employer’s association regrets that later there was a stoppage, which forced the companies to “export 100% of their production” and took some companies ahead. “This shows that the Spanish companies that have survived are really competitive because they have been investing in R + D + i for many years. The Valencian Power Electronics is the leader in the United States in inverters and the Navarrese Ingeteam in Australia. In the case of the followers, the Murcian Soltec is one of the most important firms in the world. There is a smaller industrial sector with companies like the Asturian Praxia, which makes structures, ”Donoso assures.
Pablo Cuesta, CEO of Praxia, agrees with Donoso that Spain leads technology due to its early commitment to renewables. “It is a success story. Being one of the first countries in the development of renewables has had a very important industrial impact. Solar panels were stopped in Spain in 2005 due to Chinese competition. However, in the rest of the components we are very competitive. ” Praxia has a turnover of 10 million a year with the structures it manufactures, has 25 employees at its facilities in Oviedo and exports to 35 countries.
Chinese competition ended the manufacture of solar panels in the country
Power Electronics, which is headquartered in Llíria (Valencia), has been dedicated since 1987 to the manufacture of electronic material for photovoltaic projects, storage and electric mobility. The company closed 2020 with sales of 490.7 million euros and a turnover growth of 42% compared to the previous year. Raul Padierna, Commercial Director in Spain and Portugal of Power Electronics, underlines that the industrial development of the sector in Spain is key because “it allows photovoltaic technological self-sufficiency without dependence on the outside. This has as a consequence the growth of the industry and the retention of talent.”
The Oviedo Exiom Group company (which plans to close this year with a turnover of 100 million euros) does produce solar panels, although it manufactures them in its two factories located in the Chinese province of Jiangsu. Omar gonzalezCEO of Exiom Group, assures that “the existing business network in China makes it possible to access certain essential components for the manufacture of the panels.”
The wind industrial sector is controlled by five large companies with production centers in Spain: Siemens Gamesa, Vestas, General_Electric (owner of LM Wind Power), Nordex Acciona Windpower and Enercon. The largest company is Siemens Gamesa, which has 9 factories in Spain that employ 1,200 people and has a turnover of 10 billion euros per year. Wind turbines are made up of the tower, the blades and the nacelles (called nacelles) where the turbines go.
Siemens Gamesa specializes in nacelles and their components (gearboxes that increase spin speed, generators and all electronics). “70% of the components produced in our Spanish plants in 2020 were exported to the United States, Chile, France, Poland, Turkey, Greece, Denmark and Portugal,” says a company spokesperson. “
A second key element is the blades, which are manufactured using state-of-the-art technology like aircraft wings to optimize performance. In Spain, the production of Vestas stands out (with a main plant in Daimiel -Ciudad Real- and another in the Lugo municipality of Viveiro which is in the process of closing) and of LM Wind Power with plants that employ 1,473 highly qualified people in Les Coves de Vinromà (Castelló) and Ponferrada (León). José Luis Grau, director of operations in_Spain of LM Wind Power, underlines that the Spanish industry generates quality employment and exports technology to the whole world. “Spain was a pioneer and that has allowed it to develop a high-tech industry that employs 30,000 people,” says Grau.
The great challenge for the sector is the storage of renewable energy. The Puçol (Valencia) firm Ampere Energy (which has a turnover of 4 million a year) produces smart batteries that optimize self-consumption facilities with solar panels. Jose Alvarez, executive vice president of the company, points out that it is a sector that is going to grow exponentially.
“The plates and batteries are 10 times more efficient than 20 years ago. A complete system of ours for a single-family house costs about 10,000 euros and pays for itself in 8 years with what you save on the receipt. From there, you are 12 years old of free energy since the equipment lasts about 20 years, “he says.