Spain to link Mallorca, Ibiza

The so-called Romulus 2 project, REE said today, will cost €225 million and once completed will be the longest AC submarine cable in the world. The underwater section of the 132 kV AC cable will be 118 kilometers and connect the Bay of Talamanca in Ibiza to the Bay of Santa Ponsa in Mallorca. The seabed in the area has a depth of around 800 meters, which also makes the project of the deepest in the world, REE added.

The link, which will enter service in a trial period in 2015, is crucial for a number of reasons, REE explained. Firstly, it will ensure the stability and increase the quality of the power supply. Secondly, the energy isolation of the Mallorca-Menorca and the Ibiza-Formentera electricity systems will also be solved. Since Mallorca is also interconnected to Spain’s mainland grid via the Romulus 1 cable (an HVDC-high voltage direct cable developed by Siemens), Balearic Islands will soon be fully integrated to Spain’s peninsula system. Finally, such development will decrease operational costs of the islands electricity systems and potentially lead to the development of a greener power network.

REE claims interconnecting the Balearic Islands will also bring the introduction of generation technologies that reduce CO2 emissions. This was the case with the Romulus 1 project, REE argued, which led to an annual reduction of 250,000 tons of carbon emissions.

Criticism remains

Despite the significance of the Romulus projects, criticism over the lack of renewable energy sources on the islands remains. As pv magazine revealed on Tuesday, of the 2,490 MW of installed power capacity in the Balearics at the end of 2013, solar PV and wind made up tiny 78 MW and 4 MW portions, respectively. Dirty coal still provides the Balearics with 510 MW of capacity. Fuel and gas plants and combined cycle plants provide an additional 877 MW and 934 MW of intalled power capacity, respectively.

Instead of boosting renewable power capacity, the power flexibility achieved through the Romulus 1 project seems to have instead provided Spaniards with peace of mind.

Specifically the Balearic Islands make an exceptional case for power supply and management because while their population is just over 1 million, there are an extra 10 million tourists visiting during the holiday season.

Solar PV presents an excellent solution because it can provide necessary amounts of energy in the summertime when mostly needed. The Balearics’ interconnection to the mainland also means power supply is guaranteed.

Therefore, using coal today to power the sun-drenched Mediterranean islands while they are also connected to the mainland grid is nonsense that defies Spain’s environmental awareness.

Solar PV investors should keep their appetite tamed though. Decarbonization of the Balearics is a step closer with the Romulus projects, but it doesn’t appear viable anytime soon. Spain’s power sector suffers from overcapacity and the peninsula’s link to the islands is a rather very good chance for power to be sold in Mallorca and Ibiza when tourism peaks, not the other way round. Installing solar PV on the islands could decarbonize the islands for good, but the Spanish peninsula is not willing to accept extra solar PV power when tourists have gone home. Unless of course, the Balearics’ dirty fossil fuel fleet is retired, but this doesn’t appear very possible either.