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The company Energy to Quality, created in 2005 in part by uni-
versity professors in Madrid, developed a voltage-dip generator to
mimic power fluctuations in a controlled fashion. The company
consults with manufacturers to analyze how short circuits a ect
their turbines, allowing the designs to be improved.
The government specifications and company innovations make
the grid interconnections in Spain among the best in the world,
according to Ceña. But though wind continues to capture a greater
share of electricity production, he believes there's still room for
improvement. "The main challenges for the future are from the
electrical point of view," he says. "We need to integrate a great deal
of wind power into the system. There are many challenges, and
there many Spanish companies working to find solutions."
Indeed, 500 Spanish companies now work in the wind-power
sector, most providing services and equipment not only in Spain
but around the world.
OPERATING THE SYSTEM
The Spanish power utility Iberdrola, which has been selling kilo-
watt-hours for more than a century, is the largest wind-power
operator in the world, managing more than 7,700 megawatts of
power in 19 countries.
"From a management point of view it's easy to have five or six
wind farms, but when you have 7,700 megawatts blowing in the
wind around the world, you have to also be innovative in the way
you manage the assets," says Carlos Gascó, one of the directors of
Iberdrola Renewables. "You have to make a huge e ort in infor-
mation flow on a real-time schedule."
That e ort is carried out at the operations center, known as
CORE. Rows of computers hum qui-
etly in a spacious o ce in Toledo, south
of Madrid. Huge screens along the front
wall flash a variety of detailed images.
Some display an international map of
Iberdrola wind farms, shaded to indicate
which are in operation. Others display a
group of turbines at one particular facil-
ity; with the click of a mouse, an engineer can narrow in on the
current, real-time operations of each turbine in every wind farm
around the world.
Information flows in continuously, through fiber-optic chan-
nels and by satellite. More than a million points of data---more
than 300 for each turbine---are transmitted from local and inter-
From this center, the company can initiate or halt machine
operations as necessary. If engineers detect a problem in a turbine,
they can alert local maintenance sta to investigate the problem
and bring the turbine up to speed again quickly. "We want to reduce
the time that any turbine is o ine and allow each wind farm to
produce more," says Gustavo Moreno, CORE manager.
This impressive facility was born of Spanish government regu-
lations, which require all renewable-power operators to institute
real-time control centers that send information to the Spanish
grid operator, Red Electrica ("red" means grid in Spanish). The
center also incorporates the company's forecasting system, which
predicts the amount of wind that will be available from any given
farm over the next two days.
Iberdrola has always pursued a mix of energy with a focus on
clean, renewable sources, according to Gascó. Originally that meant
hydropower, but in 2001 the company made a decision to invest sig-
nificantly in today's cleaner technologies, including wind.
The company scaled up rapidly, from four wind farms in 2003
to more than 600 today---an expansion that demanded a rigorous
approach to management. "Wind-farm operators in the past had
a kind of romantic approach to energy," says Gascó. "The pio-
neers were engineers and technicians planting little wind farms
or individual wind turbines. It has moved to being a mainstream
source of power."
As Iberdrola expanded into markets around the world, Gascó
says, the company also worked to navigate each country's regu-
lations, requirements, and cultural standards. "You don't talk to
someone from Argentina the same as you talk to someone in Mon-
golia, the U.K., or the U.S," he says.
Today, Gascó adds, Iberdrola sees wind as an important part of
the energy mix. "We saw that the political impulse is today going
toward something that is more sustainable---and it's the right busi-
ness decision," he says. "It's also good business for a large base of
shareholders. So we think that the company is very well positioned
from every point of view: technically, technologically, financially,
Endesa, another electric company
and major wind-farm operator in Spain,
built some of the earliest wind farms in
the Canary Islands and in the region of
Catalonia and Galicia. The company
has a presence in 12 countries; last year
it began operating the first wind farm in
Chile. It also recently signed an agreement with another of the
largest developers in Spain---Enerfin, part of the Elecnor group---to
jointly develop o shore wind parks in southern Spain.
"We're trying to optimize the management system and the design
so that the energy we produce is the most e cient possible," says
Fernando Ferrando, Endesa's director of renewable energy.
For the past two years, Endesa has sponsored a research award,
open to universities, laboratories, private individuals, and busi-
nesses, for work on sustainable technologies and energy sources
that minimize climate change. The four 2007 winners, from Spain,
Italy, and Chile, each receive 500,000 euros (about $771,000) and
access to the company's expertise in business development. One
of the winners, a team including researchers from the Autono-
"WE'RE TRYING TO OPTIMIZE
THE MANAGEMENT SYSTEM
AND THE DESIGN SO THAT THE
ENERGY WE PRODUCE IS THE
MOST EFFICIENT POSSIBLE.
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