The Canary Islands is currently a European benchmark regarding the integration of renewables. The fight against climate change has become a particularly relevant challenge for the island territories of the continent and this archipelago today holds a prominent position among those regions of the EU that are tackling the decarbonisation of the economy through the use of clean and cutting-edge technological solutions.
As such, the European Commission has chosen the Canary Islands, and more specifically the island of Lanzarote, to hold the 2nd 'Clean Energy for EU Islands' Forum on Monday, a conference promoted by the EC and the 14 Member States that have islands, and during which the best renewable integration solutions that have been adopted so far in the island systems of Europe will be presented.
This is yet a further step in the sustainability policies of island territories, after the European Commission and the Member States signed the political declaration "Clean Energy for EU Islands" in May 2017 in order to reduce the fossil fuel dependency of the archipelagos.
The holding of this forum on Lanzarote is undeniable proof that the model for the integration of renewable energy on the Canary Islands is one of the most noteworthy examples at a European level and that the Spanish islands, in addition to being at the forefront of the energy transition, are today one of the main pilot projects of this transition in the EU.
The deployment of renewable energy is being both a challenge and an opportunity for the islands, but also for Red Eléctrica de España, which since 2010 has been working on the development and construction of the necessary infrastructures to address this energy transition and is directly responsible for the development of the transmission grid that will allow the integration of the renewable generation foreseen in the archipelago.
Investments totalling 2.8 billion euros place the Canary Islands at the forefront of the energy transition
Red Eléctrica's commitment to the Canary Islands is showcased by the volume of investments planned in this autonomous community for the 2010-2025 period, which totals more than 2.8 billion euros; and also by the deployment of infrastructures and technological projects that the Company is undertaking in that region: ranging from the Wind Energy Plan and the interconnections between islands to the renovation and improvement of all the existing infrastructure without needing to cut off the electricity supply (MAR project) and the commissioning of the Soria-Chira pumped-storage hydroelectric power station.
To be at the forefront of the European Union in the integration of renewable energy into isolated systems, the Canary Islands, in addition to a robust, meshed and smart transmission grid capable of carrying out a highly efficient management of the demand, also need interconnections between islands, which provide increased energy security, and a considerable energy storage capacity that can be used as a tool for system operation.
Without the support of interconnections and large-scale energy storage it would not be possible to integrate all renewable production, hence resulting in the significant curtailment of renewable generation. Moreover, it would require a greater support from thermal generation, which would imply increased emissions and higher costs.
In short, the goal is to integrate clean energy sources and at the same time ensure a quality energy supply at a competitive price. in the Canary Islands and in the set of island territories of the European Union. Thus, efficient solutions are emerging from this mosaic of small testing grounds that populate the seas and oceans of the continent; solutions that are exportable to the rest of the world in order to make progress in the global decarbonisation programme.
These are some of the most emblematic projects of the energy transition in the archipelago, all of them being projects that will significantly reduce the cost associated to electricity generation on the islands. Each MW of renewable, in addition to being clean, represents an important energy saving for a system that has been burning more than 90 percent fuel for the generation.
Canary Islands’ 2018 Wind Energy Plan: 434 million euros to pilot the energy transition
The best example of what the energy transition on the Canary Islands is entailing, and will represent, is the 2018 Wind Energy Plan, a huge challenge that we are tackling in excellent coordination with the wind energy developers and the authorities of the archipelago.
This plan consists of a new quota of wind energy generation projects totalling 403.2 MW, which must be connected and have the capability to be evacuated before the end of the year. To understand the dimension of the challenge, it is worth noting that the installed wind power capacity on the Canary Islands before the new quota was established was 164 MW. With the Canary Islands’ 2018 Wind Energy Plan, renewable energy will go from covering 7.8% of the demand in 2017 to reaching a figure of around 20% with the new installed power by the end of 2018.
Red Eléctrica has constructed all the facilities of the transmission grid (lines and substations) that are necessary for the evacuation of the future wind farms, with the aim of meeting the committed deadlines, and is making a significant effort in managing access and connection requests made by the developers and in processing the administrative authorisation for the projects of the facilities. The planned investment totals 434 million euros.
Soria-Chira pumped-storage hydroelectric power station: more than 300 million euros to guarantee energy storage
One of the main characteristics of electricity is the limitation existing with regard to its long-term storage in large quantities, and therefore an instantaneous balance between generation and demand is necessary (generating energy at the very moment it is consumed).
In addition, renewable energy poses certain unique features caused, mainly, by the high variability of their production, determined by the changing environmental conditions, as well as by the uncertainty in their prediction.
This fact, coupled with the fact that the Canary Islands are small and isolated electricity systems, and therefore more vulnerable to disturbances, makes it key to introduce energy storage systems, such as pumped-storage hydroelectric power stations, whose main purpose is the guarantee of supply, the security of the system and the integration of non-manageable renewable energy.
The Soria-Chira pumped-storage hydroelectric power station project is a clear example of this and its benefits are evident: greater integration of renewable energies (surplus renewable energy may be used); increased guarantee of supply (the system operator will have available, in a quick and efficient manner, 200 MW of power); greater system security (through its regulation capacity it will make it possible to compensate for the variability of renewable production while maintaining the frequency values stable); greater energy independence and reduction of costs (it will reduce the imports of more expensive and polluting fossil fuels) and the reduction of emissions.
With an investment of more than 300 million euros, the Soria-Chira pumped-storage hydroelectric power station will have a power capacity of 200 MW, which represents around 36% of the current peak demand of the island of Gran Canaria. The project includes the construction of a seawater desalination plant and the associated marine works, as well as the necessary facilities for its connection to the transmission grid in order to be able to evacuate such energy into the system.
At this moment, the project is in the environmental assessment phase. During this process all the concerns raised and proposals submitted by different stakeholder groups have been analysed with the aim of incorporating them to improve the project. Once these modifications are processed by the end of 2018, the project will be ready to be authorised to meet the objective of starting the construction works in 2019.
In Tenerife, we are in the prior studies phase as set out and foreseen by Royal Decree 738/2015. We have identified the preferred sites, which are being analysed in maximum detail to select the optimal site. Pursuant to that set out in the regulation, once the site is selected, the project must be approved by the Ministry for Ecological Transition and REE duly notified requesting they undertake the project.
MAR project: 274 million euros to renew and improve the grid without interrupting the power supply
Red Eléctrica acquired the 66 kV, 132 kV and 220 kV transmission assets on the Spanish islands from ENDESA in 2010, and this purchase consolidated the Company as sole transmission agent and operator of the electricity system on the Canary Islands and the Balearic Islands , following the model already in place on the Spanish Peninsula.
In 2011, Red Eléctrica started a programme of actions in the Canary Islands whose objective was to integrate and improve the facilities of the transmission grid according to the standards of quality of REE’s infrastructure on the Spanish Peninsula.
In order to carry out this programme, REE invested 274 million euros between 2011 and 2017 in renovation, improvement and maintenance tasks, of which 126 million euros were allocated to the Grid Asset Improvement Project (MAR Project) and 148 million to a specific maintenance plan for the facilities of the archipelago.
The plan has entailed the comprehensive review of more than 2,000 km of line and fifty substations, the replacement of 457 towers and 132.74 km of conductor cable, the integration and adaptation of 340 substation bays, the renewal/replacement of 8,668 insulator strings, the increase in power capacity of 108 switches, the comprehensive revision and maintenance of 16 transformers, the application of paint and an anticorrosive treatment in about 80% of the electricity transmission facilities of the archipelago, the increase of telecommunications equipment from 54 to 2,404 as well as the new installation of 259.25 km of fibre optic cable and the revision and maintenance of 610.05 km of FO cable.
The execution of these actions has considerably reduced the average interruption time (AIT) from 244 minutes in 2010, the year prior to the acquisition of the assets by Red Eléctrica, to just 3 minutes in 2017.
Interconnections between the islands: more than 100 million euros to increase security of supply of the electricity system
The electricity links between islands are essential to achieve more stable, robust and resilient electricity systems, and, therefore, more capable of absorbing highly variable production sources such as renewables. Additionally, as a result of the islands being interconnected, the links will help promote greater environmental efficiency, reduce CO2 emissions and electricity system costs.
The Canary Islands’ electricity system has six electrically isolated systems, with the islands of Lanzarote and Fuerteventura being the only two connected with a 66 kV cable.
To address the energy transition, the construction of three more links is planned:
The new 132 kV Fuerteventura-Lanzarote interconnection has already obtained the Environmental Impact Statement this year, so its imminent authorisation by the regional administration is foreseeable. In this case, the works will begin in 2019.
The execution project and the EIS (Environmental Impact Study) will be submitted to the permitting process once the statement of uniqueness is obtained.
The other interconnection planned, Gran Canaria-Fuerteventura, is included in Addendum 2 of the 2015-2020 Electricity Transmission Grid Planning, a circumstance that authorises us to undertake the technical feasibility studies, which are proceeding as planned. This important interconnection will have to be confirmed in the next grid planning period and at which time the commissioning date will be specified.
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