Technology and Europe
Norway plans to build the world's most powerful wind turbine, hoping the new technology will increase the profitability of costly offshore wind farms, partners behind the project said on Friday.
With a rotor diameter of 145m, the 10-megawatt prototype will be roughly three times more powerful than ordinary wind turbines.
The grand U.S. ambitions of Indian wind-turbine manufacturer Suzlon Energy Ltd. are facing mounting problems.
The Indian company -- the world's fifth-largest wind-turbine maker by sales -- earlier this year acknowledged that 65 giant blades on turbines it had sold in the U.S. Midwest were cracking because of the extreme gusts in the region. The company is reinforcing 1,251 blades, almost the total it has sold in the U.S.
Now, other problems are emerging, in part because the company quickly ramped up U.S. sales to meet burgeoning demand for alternative energy. ...
In a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in February, Edison Mission Energy, a unit of Edison International, said the 144-foot-long windmill blades it recently bought from Suzlon have begun to split at three wind-power sites it operates in the Midwest. Suzlon has recalled 1,251 blades from its top-of-the-line turbines, which represent the majority of blades the company has sold to date in the U.S..
Its troubles don't end there. A year ago, the company bought a controlling stake in a large German turbine manufacturer, REpower Systems AG, in one of India's biggest overseas acquisitions. ...Now, Suzlon can't get its hands on the blueprints. Hamstrung by a German corporate law, Suzlon must offer to buy out minority shareholders before it can demand REpower's designs. It's unlikely that the company could make a tender offer until 2009, say people with knowledge of the companies. ...Mr. Kher blamed the cracks on the Midwest's unexpectedly violent changes in wind direction. Though Mr. Tanti says that only 45 blades have cracked, Suzlon says it will add an extra lamination layer to almost all of the blades it has shipped to the U.S. To repair cracked blades and reinforce the rest, the company expects to spend $30 million.
GWEC figures wind power's capacity in 2005 was about 24%-that is, wind turbines spin 1 hour out of 4, year-round.
That will improve, but slowly. Bigger and taller turbines, in more favorable locations-especially offshore-will make wind turbines more efficient. But it will be a long time before wind power's paper strength starts to be reflected in real electricity generation. GWEC's own figures point to wind power creeping toward 30% efficiency over the next twenty years.
Wind power may be the most mature horse in the renewable-energy stable. But even a thoroughbred is going to have a tough time catching up with the supertanker that is the fossil-fueled energy establishment.
A project currently underway aimed at connecting Malta to the European electricity grid is gathering steam, with work aimed at determining the appropriate regulatory and operating framework in progress with a view to preparing the project to move from the feasibility to the implementation phase. ...With electricity generation accounting for 63 per cent of Malta's greenhouse gas emissions, the initiative will be crucial if Malta is to meet EU climate change directives, as well as the European Commission's target of achieving a 20 per cent reduction from 1990 carbon dioxide levels.
While the Marsa Power Station is due to close down, Malta is also investigating the possibility of sourcing natural gas as an alternative to the liquid fossil fuels currently in use at the Delimara and Marsa power stations.
According to Malta’s autumn update of its National Reform Programme, the government is working with the German consultants on preparation plans that envisage a 200MVA electricity connection with Sicily.
Such an interconnection would be coupled with more irregular sources of energy such as the proposed multi-megawatt offshore wind farm project as well as the generation of electricity from waste. ...The connection with the European power grid is integral for the emergence of the wind farm project. As the report, presented yesterday, states, “An interconnection to the European electrical network is unavoidable for the integration of an intermittent source of energy such as the proposed multi-megawatt offshore wind farm, given the stability issues that would otherwise arise in a small isolated system such as currently in Malta.”
The European Union has taken the lead on many climate change issues - from ratifying the Kyoto Protocol to passing laws to require and encourage the development of renewable energy. Why, then, are so many European energy companies looking to invest in the United States?
For António Mexia, the chief executive of Energías de Portugal, the answer is simple. "The United States is the fastest-growing market in the world for wind power," he said. "If we want to be a leader, we have to be here." ..."In America you can put up a 200- or 300-megawatt wind park," Mexia said. "You can't do that in Europe" because of the lack of open space for such large wind farms.
There is also more potential for growth in the United States, where wind farms account for barely 1 percent of installed generating capacity. In some EU countries, that figure is as high as 10 percent.
The question is no longer "Who has seen the wind?" but "Who owns the wind?"
In the developing world of renewable energy, can neighbouring wind farms steal from each other? What if you put solar panels on your roof and your neighbour plants a tree that blocks them from the sun? Do you have a right to solar access?
These aren't just philosophical questions, but real-life challenges that are already lining lawyers' pockets in Canada and Europe.
Wind turbine makers face a ``major challenge'' getting equipment due to surging demand and probably won't be able to cut delivery times for three years, said Suzlon Energy Ltd., India's biggest wind farm construction company.
Lead times to supply wind turbines, which have reached at least 15 months, will take time to reduce as suppliers clear order backlogs and add an ``unprecedented'' amount of new capacity, Andre Horbach, Amsterdam-based chief executive officer at Suzlon, said today in Melbourne. Suzlon has a $3.5 billion order backlog, he said.
Danish wind turbine manufacturer Vestas Wind Systems AS is developing a new offshore wind turbine model following recent gear box problems at several of its currently operating turbines, Swedish magazine Ny Teknik said. ...Peter Wenzel Kruse said gear boxes are a problem for the entire wind power industry, because strains on the boxes increase as ever bigger windmills are built.
Clipper Windpower Plc, the partner of BP Plc in U.S. wind-energy projects, fell to an 11-month low in London trading because a faulty component will lead to a delay in shipments. ...Production of Clipper's 2.5-megawatt Liberty wind turbine has been hampered by problems relating to the supply of externally-sourced components. The company forecast a first-half loss after turbine production was ``constrained'' by difficulties in obtaining parts.
``They have slipped up on quality issues twice,'' said John-Marc Bunce, an analyst at London-based Ambrian Partners Ltd. ``This could potentially be damaging to their sales ability going forward.'' Bunce lowered his recommendation on Clipper to ``sell'' from ``hold.''
A grandiose plan to link Europe's electricity grids may recast wind power from its current role as a walk-on extra to being the star of the show.
Plug in your toaster-or your television or your vacuum cleaner-and the electricity that surges through it is an alternating current. The question of whether the world would be powered by direct current (DC), in which electrons flow in one direction around a circuit, or by alternating current (AC), in which they jiggle back and forth, was decided in the 1880s. Thomas Edison backed DC. George Westinghouse backed AC. Westinghouse won.
The reason was that over the short distances spanned by early power grids, AC transmission suffers lower losses than DC. It thus became the industry standard. Some people, however, question that standard because over long distances high-voltage DC lines suffer lower losses than AC. Not only does that make them better in their own right, but employing them would allow electricity grids to be restructured in ways that would make wind power more attractive. That would reduce the need for new conventional (and polluting) power stations.
The race to build new sources of alternative energy from the wind is running into a formidable obstacle: not enough windmills...Numerous wind-power projects from Virginia to California have been stalled due to the shortage. But for some renewable-energy companies in Europe, where wind power has been in vogue for almost two decades, the logjam is a lucrative opportunity. These firms anticipated a shortage of turbines and locked in orders with makers. They're now using their considerable buying power to gobble up smaller utilities in the U.S. that couldn't otherwise get their hands on turbines.
CHEERLEADERS for renewable energy are fond of pointing out that patches of desert receive enough energy each year from sunlight to power the entire world. But few deign to explain how the construction of the millions of solar cells required to convert that energy into electricity would be financed. Utility bosses and policymakers tend to dismiss wind and solar power as noble but expensive distractions, sustainable only through lavish subsidies. But new studies suggest that renewables might not be as dear as sceptics suspect...These figures, of course, rely on all sorts of questionable assumptions.
The world's first floating wind turbine could be generating electricity in the North Sea in 2009 under a research pact between Norwegian energy group Norsk Hydro and German engineering firm Siemens.
Floating wind turbines would represent a technological breakthrough for offshore power generation, which has had to rely on shallow sites for turbines installed on the seabed.
While European governments have been putting significant funding into the construction of offshore wind farms, they will only be a viable power source for consumers if transmission systems are efficient.
Current offshore wind farms are constructed relatively close to the coast, but larger farms planned for the future will need to be built further out to sea - meaning they will need a better method to transfer power.
That's why German engineering company Siemens has invested millions in better power transmission systems for this market, paying particular attention to high-voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission technology, which is an alternative to the currently used alternating-current (AC) systems as a means for the bulk transmission of power.
The huge advantage of HVDC is the ability to transmit large amounts of power over very long distances at much lower capital costs and with greatly reduced power losses than AC.
THESE should be heady times for Vestas, a Danish firm that makes more than a quarter of the world's wind turbines. The wind business is booming, and the company said last week that it had swung into profit in 2006, thanks to an 8% rise in revenue. But there is "significant unexploited production capacity", Vestas says, due to shortages of high-quality turbine components. Other companies grumble about a lack of gearboxes and bearings.
Wind firms' worries echo those in the solar-power business, which is also booming but where a shortage of polysilicon has hampered growth. Silicon is made from sand, which is abundant, but there are not enough refineries to turn it into solar-grade polysilicon. As a result, prices for silicon contracts have more than doubled, to $70 or $80 per kilogram, in the past three years, says Jesse Pichel, an analyst at Piper Jaffray.
In both industries demand has rocketed and supply cannot keep up. The wind business is growing by more than 30% a year worldwide, with America leading the way. (This week Energias de Portugal became the latest European utility to invest in American wind farms, with the $2.2 billion purchase of Horizon Wind Energy.) And when a solar incentive scheme took hold in Germany in 2004-05, demand in Europe roughly doubled, says Ron Kenedi of Sharp, the biggest solar-cell maker.
Irish minister for communications, marine and natural resources Noel Dempsey has set a target to treble the contribution made by renewable energy from 5percent to 15percent of electricity produced by 2010.
His announcement came at the launch of a new publication called Renewable Energy Development 2006. The report provides a broad overview of current policies in the field of renewable energy and serves as a concise introduction to the topical issues and challenges in the area.
Wind turbines that can operate through cyclones and earthquakes are increasingly being installed on small, isolated islands that seek improved energy independence, a wind power producer said on Friday.
France's fifth largest wind power producer Aerowatt this week launched a 3.85 megawatt-wind farm on the small cyclone-prone French Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean, enough to provide power to 12,000 inhabitants out of a total of 700,000.
"This is the first wind farm installed on Reunion," Jerome Billerey, head of the company, told Reuters.
But installing wind turbines on remote islands can often be complex due to poor logistics, limited port infrastructure and the hurdle of regular cyclones.
Apart from general bottleneck problems in times of high demand -- like during periods of extremely high or low temperature -- observers have questioned the grid's ability to cope with the addition of renewable energy sources, such as wind energy, into the mix and the network.
Often, large wind parks that produce hundreds of megawatts of power in remote areas put a massive strain on local grids, which were designed to bring electricity from the center to the peripheries, and not the other way around.
Due to the wind's variable strength, the amount of electricity injected into the grid is fluctuating constantly, further straining the grid.