CLIMATE CHANGE: European Firms See Windfall in Renewable Energy

  • by Julio Godoy (berlin)
  • Wednesday, February 03, 2010
  • Inter Press Service

Projects to improve the environmental footprint of the European energy sector, and help reduce greenhouse gases (GhG) emissions on the continent include an international grid that intelligently manages energy generated by the numerous wind farms installed offshore across the North Atlantic and the North Sea and other renewable energy sources.

Delegates from Belgium, Britain, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden met in December, to start preparations for the creation of the new grid.

A second meeting, scheduled for Feb. 9, will see delegates from these countries joined by executives of power operators in Berlin to create an international coordination group that will be ready to start construction in 2011.

The new grid expected to be up and running by 2020 will cost some 30 billion Euros (43 billion US dollars).

Rainer Bruederle, new German economy minister of economy, confirmed the plans at a press conference in January. 'Germany and other European countries have ambitious construction plans for more off-shore wind farms, and therefore the international coordination of the national grids is of strategic importance.

'We want to launch a fundamental reshaping of the whole European energy sector,' Bruederle said.

The new grid, spread across half the continent and under the sea, will connect the European off shore wind farms and solar thermal power plants and manage the oscillations of electricity supply from renewable sources which is highly dependent on weather conditions.

Also linked to the grid, that is capable of storing electricity generated during peak periods, will be hydroelectric power stations, mostly in the Scandinavian countries.

Such a grid has been repeatedly demanded by European electricity experts and environmental activists.

Sven Teske, in charge of renewable energy sources at the German office of the environmental organisation Greenpeace, told IPS that 'the present European national grids are not able to absorb, let alone manage, the formidable amount of electricity generated by the growing numbers of off shore wind farms and solar power plants.'

Similarly, the European Wind Energy Association had in 2009 urged governments to construct a new, internationally coordinated grid.

European grids currently present several problems. For one thing grid operators are restricted to national levels and for another the grids lack capacity to handle renewable energy supply.

Dorthe Vinther, vice president of Energinet, an independent public enterprise owner of the main electricity and natural gas grids in Denmark, told IPS that the Danish grid is still 'not intelligent enough to flexibly coordinate supply and demand, and compensate the weather-dependent fluctuations so far typical of wind and solar energy.'

Vinther said that fluctuations in renewable energy supply make it difficult to meet the base load demand. 'We need better weather forecast, which will allow us to improve our schedule and management of wind or solar energy supply.'

She added: ‘’The grid must be able store electricity in phases of higher wind and solar energy supply, and deliver it in periods of low supply, to constantly meet base load demand.'

Vinther said the planned grid could provide a model for the creation of future international renewable energy, especially from wind farms. 'The integration of large-scale wind power requires a strong international transmission grid and efficient international electricity markets, to trade and balance the wind power in a wide geographical area,' Vinther told IPS.

'For such international projects, we also need coherent energy systems to increase flexibility and economic efficiency and reduce environmental impact,' Vinther stressed. 'We need smart grids.'

The smart electricity grid of the future will use digital technology to monitor all electricity supply flowing into the grid while controlling the consumer's demand right down to household appliances to save energy, reduce costs, and increase reliability of supply.

Smart grids use superconductive lines to increase the efficiency of transmission and improve the capacity of the system to store electricity when it is not being consumed and deliver it at periods of peak demand.

Another renewable energy project in Britain will, starting in 2013, involve the construction of a colossal off-shore wind farm of up to 32 gigawatts (Gw) which will, by the year 2020, cover 25 percent of the electricity consumed in the country.

As of Jan 2010, Britain has an installed wind energy capacity of some four Gw. The new wind farm will include more than 6,400 wind turbines, spread across the North Atlantic.

The German engineering giant Siemens won the contract for the British wind farm construction, for some 110 billion euros (160 billion dollars).

Bundesnetzagentur (the German Federal Network Agency for Electricity and Gas, which monitors telecommunications, postal services, electricity, gas and train markets) documents that last year the German electricity grid was hit on 197 days by snags arising from difficulties in absorbing and managing the growing supply of renewable energy.

© Inter Press Service (2010) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service

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