In addition, CENER works across five continents in emerging markets such as Costa Rica, Panama, and the Dominican Republic, helping set up regulations to facilitate investment in wind farms and then assisting in their development.
"I think that renewable energy is going to have an extremely important growth," says Ormazabal, "and emerging countries see this as the opportunity to put themselves on the same level as other countries."
Forecasting the Future
Because wind provides power only intermittently, grid operators working to maximize efficiency need to know how much energy will be available at any given time. Under Spanish regulations, wind-farm operators sell their power to the grid and must predict how much wind they will be contributing; the operators pay penalties for inaccurate prediction. (In other national markets, operators are not penalized for these errors.)
The apparent burden this requirement places upon companies has turned into an opportunity. Spanish companies have taken the lead in microsite prediction— forecasting what will happen at a specific turbine, given the meteorological conditions. In fact, 90 percent of Spanish wind farms use prediction services from one Madrid-based company, Meteológica. The small firm has the largest market share of wind forecasting in the world.
"There was a highly competitive environment, because companies needed to be able to forecast as accurately as possible," says Manuel Blanco of Meteológica. "In Spain this has made us very successful; we developed a simple system that is able to very accurately forecast the generation of wind farms."
Meteológica began operations in 1997, developing an automated forecasting system that it began marketing in 2000. Soon the company was providing services for Spanish national and local government offices that needed to predict, for example, agricultural conditions or the chance of forest fires.
"After a few years we started to develop systems to forecast variables of interest to our clients," says Blanco. The company developed models not just to predict the likelihood of forest fires but to model how those fires would evolve; not only to predict rainfall but to forecast water flows in specific rivers and, thus, hydrological power generation in the country.
Wind power was a natural business evolution. "In 2002 we developed a system that was able to forecast the output of the plant in kilowatt-hours, not just predict the wind speed," says Blanco. The company began working with four wind farms that year and now manages forecasting for more than 600, predicting outcomes for about 15,000 megawatts of power.