Gas Natural Fenosa President Salvador Gabarro and Alberto Nunez Feijoo, president of the Galicia autonomous region of northern Spain, presided Monday as the $34 million mini-hydro plant was commissioned at the Belesar Dam along the River Mino near Chantada.
The 20-megawatt station has two twin vertical hydraulic sets with a 10 cubic meter-per-second flow rate for each set. It is forecast to operate 6,000 hours per year with an average production of 138 gigawatt-hours per year.
Gabarro said the Belesar II plant -- as well as another planned mini-hydro plant elsewhere on the river -- demonstrates the company's commitment to renewable power development in Galicia, where it has invested about $1.65 billion in the last six years.
The event also marked the 50th anniversary of the 300-megawatt Belesar I hydroelectric plant and the creation of its reservoir, which opened in 1963.
"In the 1960s, Fenosa's entrepreneurship led to a key piece of infrastructure for the country and, five decades later, Gas Natural Fenosa Galicia remains committed," he said.
Designed by engineer Luciano Yordi, the Belesar Dam was the largest in Spain and one of the largest in Europe. Its construction took five years and employed 2,000 people.
The building of Belesar necessitated the moving of people living in Portomarin and the relocation of the monumental church-fortress of Saint Nicholas, recognized as one of the earliest and most important medieval structures in the world.
Also as part of the Belesar II project, a dry 4,200-foot stretch of the River Mino beneath the dam will be restored through the creation of a second spillway at the base of the dam.
That will send water through a part of the river that has been dry for 50 years.
Galicia is "a European power in three energies: water, wind and biomass," Feijoo proclaimed at the event, saying the region is committed to increasing the mix of renewable energy in its power generation.
In 2011, 53 percent its energy was derived from renewables, with a goal of 95 percent set for between 2015 and 2020. Thus, the government's financial commitment to renewables will be enhanced "immediately" in next year's budget, along with a reduction in the transfer tax for all renewable projects, he told the Spanish news agency EFE.
Feijoo said the region intends to update the Galician Wind Sector Plan and double the existing tax credit for wind developers who stress innovation and reducing environmental impacts.
He also promised to amend the current regulations to streamline administrative procedures to improve the financing and execution times of wind farms.
Meanwhile, the Galician president said the government next year will develop its first biomass power action plan with the aim of encouraging the use of the alternative fuel.