Photomontage composed of a windmill, solar panels and zeros and ones in binary mode


Solar generation grew 43% in 2011


At the beginning of January, Red Electrica de España (Spain’s grid operator) published details of the electricity system during 2011. It was a year which saw contracting demand, which fell 1.2%, 33% of which was covered by renewable energy. With regard to clean energy sources, two facts stand out: a record high for wind output in November and the growth in solar generation.

REE’s data shows that generation using solar technology grew 43% in 2011, with an increase of 26% in photovoltaic and 193% in solar thermal electric. This notable rise coincided with most technologies experiencing decreases in output compared to the previous year. Hydropower output fell 28%, while combined cycle generation recorded a decrease of 22%.

The bad news for the environment was that output from coal-fired power stations rose compared to 2010. The consequence of the increase in generation from coal and the lower production of other sources of clean energy gave rise to an upturn in CO2 emissions from the electricity sector estimated at 73 million tonnes – 25% more than last year.

Along with solar, another milestone was reached in 2011 at 2:00 am on 6 November when a new historical maximum value of demand coverage by wind power energy was recorded – reaching 59.6% (12,476 MW) and breaking the previous record of 54% registered at 3:00 am on 9 November 2010. Managing this event, says REE, “represented a challenge for the system operator regarding the incorporation of this amount of wind power energy to cover a low demand at this time (20,922 MW) without putting at risk the security of supply”.

Half the capacity and 33% of demand
Installed power capacity grew 1,879 MW during 2011, reaching a total of 100,576 MW by year end, showing a growth of 1.9%. 93% of this growth corresponds to new renewable facilities with 997 MW for wind power and 674 MW for solar (photovoltaic and solar thermal electric). This growth saw renewable energies reaching 46% of total installed power capacity.

This capacity helped cover gross demand for electrical energy on the Spanish peninsula during 2011 of 255,179 GWh – 2.1% lower than the figure for 2010. Once the effects of seasonal and working patterns have been factored in, consumption on the Spanish peninsula showed a fall of 1.2%. The maximum demand value for average hourly power reached 44,107 MW between 7:00 pm and 8:00 pm on 24 January, and a maximum demand value for daily energy of 884 GWh was reached on 25 January.

Renewable energies covered 33% of the demand in 2011, according to provisional data. This was 3 percentage points lower than in the previous year, due mainly to the significant reduction in hydroelectric generation, which has covered 11% of the demand this year – 5 points down on that of 2010.

Wind power generation maintained its share in the coverage of the demand with 16% of the total, equal to that of the previous year, despite the amount of wind recorded (wind factor), or available wind, on the Spanish peninsula being notably lower than in 2010. It ranked third amongst electricity sources after nuclear and combined-cycle, while solar (photovoltaic and solar thermal electric) represented 4% of the annual demand coverage.

International exchanges
For an eighth consecutive year, the balance of international exchanges was as an exporter, with 6,105 GWh, although this was 27% less than in 2010. This decrease is due to the increase in imports through the interconnection with France that have led to a change in the net exchange balance for this interconnection, compared to last year.

1,705 km of new lines were built during 2011, a figure that constitutes a record for commissioning for Red Eléctrica. In this way, the national transmission grid at year end has 40,233 km of circuits.

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