Renewable energy power generation technologies have made spectacular progress and appear to end up dominating in the mix of generation sources in Spain. Improvement is continuous in both capacities and cost reduction. However, this growth is not without problems beyond its own technology: regulations, energy markets and access and connection to the grid, among others. Solving these problems is not being a simple or quick task, especially in Spain, where we have been lag behind in the implementation of various European directives.
For those unfamiliar with the concept of “hybridization,” we can describe hybrid energy systems as those that generate electricity from two or more sources, usually from renewable origin, by sharing the same endpoint. Generally, to make the most of evacuation points and not to make them subject to the production hours of a particular type of technology.
Although the sector is prepared to adopt these solutions, regulation is not yet 100% ready.
Since June last year, the sector has had Royal Decree Law 23/2020 approving measures on energy and other areas for economic measures and promoting new business models, such as demand aggregation, storage, and hybridization. The RDL contains a clear incentive for the repowering and hybridization of existing plants, including the introduction of storage systems, with the aim of achieving better use of the resource.
Thus, the hybridization modality can be implemented in both new and existing installations. With this RDL the installations will be able to proceed with hybridization without losing the access and connection permissions already granted, using the same existing endpoint.
To this end, this RDL provides that, for hybridization in the case of existing installations, it will only be necessary to update the access and connection permission. For that it must meet several conditions, such as the access capacity already granted is not exceeded and that the original power assumes at least 40% of the access capacity. The periods for processing such upgrade are reduced in half and the economic guarantees for the generation that is incorporated are also reduced to 50%.
As for hybridization in new installations, guarantees are also cut in half for the technology that provides the least power. In addition, if the application had already been initiated, for the purposes of temporary prelation, the date of the original application is maintained provided that the resulting hybrid installation can continue to be considered the same according to the criteria approved by Royal Decree-Law 23/2020.
Despite the rise of renewable projects, one of the main inconvenient is the great difficulty of connecting to the grid, as network managers claimed saturation of lines or nodes. The problem is that in reality the networks is supposedly saturated by a significant number of fictitious projects that were supposed to use that capability and were limiting viability to real proposals.
Evacuation points have been the result of speculation in recent years. Where the only objective of the assignment of the point was its simple “resale”. To assist in the transparency and definition of applications, the Ministry and the CNMC have completed RDL 23/3030 with the recent Royal Decree 1183/2020 documents on access and connection to transport networks and distribution of electricity and CNMC Circular 1/2021establishing the methodology and conditions of access and connection to the transport and distribution networks of electrical energy production facilities.
This regulatory package will allow the rise of hybrid generation systems with and without storage. The potential is very high given the more than 42,000 renewable megawatts on which action could be taken in our country. In any case, there are already hybridization projects in development.
Comsa Corp already manages the energy generated by a biomass and solar thermos plant. With a power capacity of 22.5 megawatts.
Acciona has developed in the Breña wind farm (Albacete), a pioneering innovation project that consists of covering the surface of a wind turbine with flexible and organic photovoltaic panels for turbine consumption.
Endesa works on several projects that add photovoltaic energy with different storage technologies. Batteries to store 160 MW in Andorra (Teruel); 6.1 MW in Palma de Mallorca with solid lithium technology; in the Canary Islands, joining photovoltaic with accumulation using various flow techniques, and in Extremadura, in this case, using lithium technology.
Iberdrola has gotten into hybridization with a major project already underway in Australia. This is an investment of A$500 million (about 300 million euros) to generate 317 MW between wind and photovoltaic.
Naturgy is investigating the sum of renewables and storage systems in the La Vega wind farm (Zamora) with Vanadium Redox flow batteries and in the Alcalá distribution substation with lithium-titanate batteries.
Ence has started the procedures to hybrid the biomass plant of Puertollano (Ciudad Real) with another thermosolar nearby and for a second biomass installation in the same locality.
Without a doubt, the market is taking big steps in its process of transformation to a renewables-based model. Recent regulatory changes have shed some light, yet we are still waiting for more regulations to move forward the sector and stimulate investment.