17 January 2024
Wind energy offers many benefits to Portugal. Its potential is even greater
Wind energy is a major source of electricity in Portugal, and the wind supply chain has a strong footprint there. Whilst offshore wind offers new perspectives, the speedy permitting and repowering of onshore wind farms remain key for the country to keep reaping the fruits of wind energy.
Wind energy was the biggest source of renewable energy generation in Portugal in 2023, ahead of hydropower. It covered 29% of Portugal’s electricity demand. Portugal wants to generate 85% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030.
In 2023 renewables contributed 71% of Portugal’s electricity generation, during a windy month of December the share even reached more than 80%. And over 5 complete days, from 31 October to 6 November, Portugal produced more electricity than it needed, entirely from renewable sources.
More wind and other renewables in the energy mix means more energy security for Portugal, as it reduces the need to import expensive fossil fuels from other parts of the world. It also means lower electricity bills for Portuguese people. According to a study renewables accounted for significant electricity bill savings for consumers in 2022, wind being the top contributor.
Renewables employ around 45,000 people in Portugal (direct and indirect jobs). Wind energy alone provides jobs for nearly 20,000 people. Simens Gamesa and ENERCON produce wind turbine blades in Vagos and Viana do Castelo respectively, and CS Wind produces steel towers and offshore foundations in their Sever do Vouga and Gafanha da Nazaré factories. Vestas operates an R&D and design centre in Porto.
Nearly all wind farms in Portugal are onshore. The country wants to reach 10.4 GW of onshore wind capacity by 2030, up from 6 GW today. Repowering wind farms that reach the end of their lives between now and the end of the decade – replacing old turbines with new, more efficient ones – should help them reach this goal. Repowering nearly triples the electricity output of a wind farm while reducing the number of turbines by a quarter, all on the same site. And because older wind farms are usually on the best locations, repowering them with more powerful machines can really up the game.
But it’s permitting that’ll truly make a difference. The permitting of both new and repowered wind farms is still too slow and too complex, in Portugal and across Europe. New EU rules should help speed up the process, and the recent Wind Power Package of the European Commission contains provisions to digitalise permitting procedures.
Portugal has only one small offshore wind farm: WindFloat Atlantic, a 25 MW floating wind pilot project. But Lisbon wants to take advantage of its abundant wind resource off the Atlantic coast and do more offshore wind. It launched the initial phase for a first offshore wind auction in November 2023. The aim was to secure 3.5 GW of capacity – mostly floating wind.
With the development of offshore wind Portuguese ports will play an increasing role. The ports of Averio, Figueira da Foz and Setubal are already members of WindEurope’s Ports Platform where 35 European ports with active operations and interests in offshore wind share best practices and engage with industry and policy-makers.