Just a couple of years ago, the prospects for wind energy in Spain were not looking good. A four-year wind-market standstill meant that a country that was one of the brightest and most promising wind markets in Europe had hit the buffers.

Fast forward to 2018 and Spain is back on the map. After tenders in 2016 and 2017, a total of 5GW of wind capacity was awarded in onshore and offshore wind. These new installations will have a major role in kick-starting the market again.

Things are developing particularly well in offshore wind. The Canary Islands recently stated their intention to build up to 300MW of offshore wind by 2025, including floating offshore wind. Their aim is that renewables cover 45% of the islands’ generation by this date. Spain’s first offshore wind turbine was installed at the Plocan site off Gran Canaria in June 2018.

A change in policy

Things have also evolved on the political front. The new socialist government, under the guidance of Energy and Environment Minister Teresa Ribera Rodriguez, was one of the key drivers for more ambition when the EU was debating its renewable energy targets for 2030. Spain’s influence was key in obtaining a higher European-wide target for renewable energy for 2030 of 32%. Spain is also making welcome steps to move away from coal. The government recently announced that it will be shutting down most of its coal mines and investing €250 million in reskilling coal workers and environmental restoration in coal regions.

Despite the recent market slowdown, Spain already has a vibrant wind energy supply chain in place. The country is also a leading European wind-manufacturing hub, accounting for 22,000 jobs. This is creating real local economic value and helping to build local acceptance of wind energy.

The Basque Country is a shining example of the economic strength and potential of the wind industry. It shows that even a region that does not have the best natural wind resources can still massively benefit from the growth of the sector.

The region made a conscious decision to invest in the wind industry and is reaping the benefits in investment, jobs and growth. The area has become a significant industrial cluster for wind energy by producing and exporting cutting-edge equipment and technology to the rest of Spain and Europe. So much so, in fact, that it has one of the highest concentrations of the wind energy supply chain of any region in the world.

Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy, for example, chose to base its global headquarters in Bilbao. This is just one of many examples of the importance of the industry in and around Bilbao, and illustrates why the region is a logical choice to host the annual European wind industry get-together in 2019.

The WindEurope Conference & Exhibition in Bilbao, 2–4 April 2019, will build on the tremendous momentum achieved in recent years by the wind power industry. Wind is now the fastestgrowing energy source in the world, and is a hotbed of innovation and ambition.

The Bilbao conference and exhibition will thus be the ideal occasion for over 8,000 industry insiders and over 400 exhibitors to expand their knowledge base, make the contacts they need and solidify a vision for the future of this rapidly expanding sector. This is especially important with European elections approaching in May 2019, which will have a major impact on European energy policy for the following five years.