skip to Main Content


Acto de clausura. De izquierda a derecha José Javier Armendáriz Director General de CENER, Lourdes Goicoechea consejera de Desarrollo Rural, Industria, Empleo y Medio Ambiente del Gobierno de Navarra y Miguel Horta

On the 17th of November last, the Regional Minister of Rural Development, Industry, Employment and Environment of the Government of Navarre, Lourdes Goicoechea, closed the I National Congress on Irrigation and Renewable Energies. Accompanied by Miguel Horta, Director of the Irrigation and Infrastructures Division of the Navarre Institute of Food Technology and Infrastructures (INTIA) and by Javier Armendariz, Director General of the National Renewable Energy Centre (CENER) she was responsible for closing the work sessions held on the 16th and 17th of November, which have been attended by more than 300 representatives from the agriculture and energy sectors. A brief overview was given of all the presentations during the closing session, drawing the main conclusions that emerged.

The Congress, sponsored by CAN-Banca Cívica, Gamesa, Mtorres, Aguacanal and the Ebro River Basin Authority, began with an intervention by Jesus Maria Echeverria, Managing Director of the Navarre Institute of Food Technology and Infrastructures (INTIA). He analysed the evolution of Spanish irrigation in general and the situation of irrigation in Navarre in particular. He proposed action measures to improve the energy balance of irrigation, placing special emphasis on the implementation of renewable energies associated with irrigation systems, in the interests of the operating costs of the irrigators, of the sustainability of the system and of the integration of renewable energies into the irrigation projects. He pointed out the potentials of reparcelling and other administrative processes to implement renewable energy-based production systems that will contribute to the rationalisation of the Spanish electrical system.

Then, Fernando Sanchez, the Technical and Scientific Director of CENER, stressed that, from the energy viewpoint, our main challenge is to duplicate the presence of renewables in the energy mix. He announced that over the next decade the cost of this type of energy will be less and it will no longer be known as expensive energy. He also guaranteed that, thanks to the implementation of renewable energies in Spain, the macro-economic impact is less as, apart from the environmental benefits, there will also be less dependence on foreign energy. From the agricultural viewpoint, he considers that distributed energy and second-generation biofuels that do not compete with the food market, are extremely interesting. He finished his intervention by stating that they consider that 100% renewable energy will be feasible by 2050.

Day One. First Part. Irrigation solutions

In this first part, Manuel Omedas from the Ebro River Basin Authority (CHE) emphasised that water is still a key element in developing food and energy in the Ebro Valley. He explained that irrigators cannot remain on the sidelines of electricity manageability and that, among other things, coffer dams should be implemented within irrigation reservoirs, as well as smart networks to help reduce the cost of the supply and measures such as the use of irrigation pumping during inactive times. He pointed out that the future tendency may move towards a combination of wind uses with reservoirs (some day we will see how a reservoir can be filled with wind energy), as well as towards fostering biomass plants (a 20 MW plant requires 4000 ha. of irrigation).

Then it was the turn of Andres del Campo from Fenacore (National Federation of Irrigation Communities of Spain). In his presentation he elaborated on the figures presented by the Managing Director of INTIA, pointing out that on a national level, 15% of the surface area is responsible for 60% of the final agricultural production. This gives a clear idea of its importance and productivity, which, however, may be reduced by the increases of the power term of 455% and of the energy term of 70%. He explained that the electricity consumption in the Spanish agricultural sector represents a major production cost and that energy costs are rising. The latter is a result of the effort made by the Irrigation Communities to modernise irrigation, moving from gravity irrigation systems to pressure irrigation systems. Faced with this situation, he put forward various renewable energies as a solution to this problem, ranging from biomass and solar photovoltaic to small hydro and wind energy. He wished to stress that only these can help overcome the challenges of 21st century agriculture. Mention was also made of the existence of one billion undernourished people compared with less arable land and less fresh water per capita in the world, as well as the new farming methods and practices based on lower CO2 and methane emissions. He also defended the improvement of hydroelectric uses of the canals and other possible surpluses, changing the tariff system (only paying for registered energy, for there to be a professional price for the sector, reduced VAT and where priority is given to the Irrigation Communities with respect to self consumption).

For his part, Francisco Iribarren, from the company ENHOL, underlined that renewable energies and irrigation share primary energy sources and they must share a common space. He offered irrigators the possibility of long-term contracts to thus guarantee the supply to the relative biomass plant (they work with two models, one with 20 MW combustion and the other with 5.6 MW gasification). They need 10,000 tons of raw material for every MW (preferably from black poplar, a crop with high plantation density, mechanical harvesting and with a 12-15 year cycle, coinciding with the financing years).

Then, it was the turn for Adrian Gonzalez from HTN Biogas, property of the group, Agropecuaria Navarra y Biorenovables, S.L. He presented an innovative project that makes use of liquid manure, food industry waste and slaughterhouse waste, to produce electricity by means of the gas generated, as well as safe and high-value fertiliser waste. The livestock breeding circle is thus closed – use of liquid manure – energy production – fertilisation – crop production – animal food. The application of digestate in different forms contributes to leaving the soil with greater retaining capacity and a better structure. The plant preferably requires an irrigable area around it to thus make use of the fertilising value of the digestate (the fact that a third of the energy costs of a crop is due to the fertilisers must not be forgotten).

The final speaker of this first block was Eduardo Torres from the company MTorres, experts in the aeronautical and wind industry. He presented an optimal and novel solution, from the technological and economic viewpoint, which adapts to the energy need of the Irrigation Communities, via the installation of wind turbines of variable dimensions to supply a pumping station in the Navarre municipality of Funes. He reached the conclusion that whilst self-consumption is penalised and until the legislation is improved, this type of project will be unfeasible.

Part Two. Energy solutions through wind energy

The first speaker was Alberto Alonso from Gamesa, who presented an interesting wind diesel hybrid system model (where diesel is the compliment when there is not sufficient wind), based on a sophisticated control system. As he pointed out, it would also be ideal to have water reservoirs to regulate the peaks of energy produced that cannot be consumed.

He was followed by Jose Sancho from the company AIR who talked about small wind turbines, their different denominations depending on the powers and about the interest of this technology to avoid the loss of 3.6 billion Euro per year due to the current centralised generation method. He considered this essential to develop distributed generation and for isolated systems. He considered that small wind turbines are a basic feature to reduce the electricity bill (case of El Ferial, 10%), to supply isolated places and to improve the supply quality.

To talk about financial solutions, Joaquin Arbeloa, from CAN Banca Civica, set out the link between the bank and agricultural projects, especially those related to the Navarre Canal (both as a canal and as an irrigable area), clearly indicating that feasibility is the key for financing.

Santiago Nistal from Electriawind was the last speaker to take the floor. This company is considered to be an expert in medium wind power (between 100 and 300 kW) and it sees a possible field of action in small pumping (from 300 to 500 kW). Like the previous speakers he also placed emphasis on distributed energy and on fostering net metering, if possible, on an annual basis.

Day two. First part. Opportunities through biomass and biofuels

The second day of presentations began with Peter Kasamki, from the company VICEDEX, who gave a presentation on the Pauwlonia crop to generate electricity. He recalled that the objective of the Renewable Energy Plan (PER) is 1350 MW for 2020, 27% of which are going to correspond to energy crops. With respect to productions, he indicated that, within a very reasonable time interval to fulfil the financing of the actual project, for example seven three-year periods, between 30 and 50 tons per hectare were reached.

Then, Alberto Lafarga, from the Innovation, Technology and Management Division of INTIA, stressed, in his presentation, that both in the case of biomass and in the case of biofuels, the consumption of water and nitrogen are decisive factors for analysing the energy efficiency of crops. A reduction in the consumption of water and fertilisers is a key factor to improve the energy balance of the crops. He also added that these crops contribute to the diversification of the rural world, although they must not represent, like any other crop, more than 5 to 10% of the alternative. They also permit the development of industry near to the biomass production point, as well as agricultural operations that generate wealth in the area.

For his part, Joseph Turmo from ABENCIS established the key ideas for the location of a biomass plant. He underlined that an obvious criterion was, on the one hand, the proximity to an evacuation point, and on the other hand, the importance of having a solid supply plan. The latter can only be based on two aspects: it must be competitive for the company, and stable and beneficial for the farmer. He also placed emphasis on the need, based on genetic improvement, to work towards obtaining plant material geared towards energy uses, in other words, to improve its productivity. With respect to logistics, he underlined that the distance from these crops to the plant cannot be greater than 30 to 40 km, due to transport cost issues.

Later, Ines Echeverria, from CENER, indicated that the forecasts point to an increase in the demand for biofuels for transport and with greater sustainability requirements. All of this is going to require the development of second-generation production processes based on lignocellulosic biomass and on new alternative biofuels. In this sense, she pointed to the importance of optimising new conversion processes and biorefinery concepts that will permit an integrated use of biomass and, therefore, better energy, economic and environmental balances.

To talk about biofuels, Alberto Lafarga from the Innovation, Technology and Management Division of INTIA took the floor once again. He defined the carbon footprint concept as an important indicator in the greenhouse gas emission balance. He also added the legal provisions that limit the emissions of these gases by biofuels and that mark a tendency towards second generation biofuels based on lignocellulosic biomass.

Oscar Lumbreras, from Acciona Energy, provided a business vision of energy crops with his presentation. One of the aspects that he highlighted was the importance of a continuous supply of raw material as well as the difficulty to guarantee such a supply, the need to stabilise a price that will provide the farmers with security over the years, as well as the risk entailed by starting up this type of plantation when a financing system still has to be arranged.

Practical experiences

The block on practical experiences was opened by Alfonso Campo fromSIRASA. During his presentation he explained the project carried out in Aragon related to the creation of an wind farm investment company with the participation of the Irrigation Communities. He indicated that this project could be transferable to other autonomous communities with the relative legal adaptations.

Then, Cesar Trillo from the Alto Aragon Irrigation Community defended the need to make maximum use of the existing hydraulic infrastructures in the irrigation systems. In particular, he highlighted the economic, environmental and social sustainability represented by the hydroelectric power stations. On the one hand, they are a source of income that help relieve the increase in the energy cost and modernised irrigation systems, and on the other hand, it is a renewable energy whose use represents less environmental impact.

Jesus Garcia Ramos, from Aguacanal, presented energy operating cost experiences in the Irrigable Area of the Navarre Canal, such as, for instance, in the maintenance of pumping stations or in the use of telecontrol to manage the irrigation system. He pointed out that 10% of the irrigable surface of the canal requires pumping, the rest being controlled by the level of the canal. This makes this area very valid for energy crops, as in that case the carbon footprint of the part that corresponds to pumping becomes practically non-existent.

He was followed by Miguel Alonso, from CIEMAT, who gave a presentation on water pumping systems using solar photovoltaic energy. Until now, this type of technology has been developed to pump flow volumes of 0-50 m³ per day and depths of 20 to 100 m, geared towards those places that do not have an electrical grid or that are far away from the grid. Potentially, it could be developed for greater flow volumes and powers. Among other aspects, he stressed the importance, for the actual profitability of the project, of optimising the system design.

Finally, Juan Carlos Lopez, from the Cajamar Foundation, offered the different possibilities that exist to try to reduce energy consumption derived from acclimatising the greenhouses using renewable energies, both in the heating process and in the acclimatisation process.

Final conclusions

There are renewable energy-based solutions that can supply the energy needs of the Irrigation Communities, with economic models that can compete with traditional energy source-based solutions.

Foster distributed generation.

Combine different energy production techniques and facilitate storage.

Drive the legislation to introduce net metering, fostering self-consumption to avoid the covert generation that exists with other channels.


Download (PDF, 177 KB)


You are admin: Try debug See a exclamation point ! above ?. Hover over to see error message.



You are admin: Try debug See a exclamation point ! above ?. Hover over to see error message.



You are admin: Try debug See a exclamation point ! above ?. Hover over to see error message.


Back To Top