Wind chiefs use Barcelona event to warn of industry pitfalls

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The wind energy industry’s most influential figures have delivered various warnings this week on the threats that must be overcome to advance the industry’s development.

At the annual European wind industry gathering in Barcelona, Spain, wind energy officials and stakeholders heard grave statements on the negative implications faced by the sector if it fails to tackle issues such as cost reduction, insufficient grid interconnection and storage.
Xavier Viteri
Iberdrola (BMADIBE) renewables chief executive Xabier Viteri (pictured) told delegates at the European Wind Energy Association’s (EWEA) annual conference that offshore wind’s days were numbered if it fails to bring down costs.

“My perception is that if we are not able to achieve a big cost reduction, the industry isn’t going to run beyond 2020,” Viteri said, adding that the cost pressure comes amid “very tight” business conditions due to weak power demand, the need for financial partners, regulatory risks and competition from other renewable energy sources.

He noted that new offshore wind parks are increasingly moving into deeper waters, resulting in the unit cost per megawatt hour of electricity produced increasing instead of going down.

Earlier this week, Mainstream Renewable Power’s Eddie O’Connor used the occasion of being awarded the European wind industry’s Poul La Cour Prize 2014 (for outstanding achievement in the field of wind energy) to warn his peers of the futility of prioritising technological advance instead of pressing for greater grid interconnection.

He warned that without greater grid interconnection, wind deployment would remain stalled at 30 per cent penetration in the mix.

“We can no longer install more wind on any system if we are not interconnected, and by and large most states in Europe have insufficient interconnection. In the countries where 30 per cent wind penetration has already been achieved the traditional utility is actually getting very poor and you saw the results expressed last week. We should not plan on any further penetration by our industry until we deal with the issue of grids.

Speaking to Power Engineering International, O’Connor also emphasised the need for the industry to pay attention to storage technology as a means of securing a bright future:

“We will lose our lead in Europe if we don’t realise we have a variable source of supply. Look at California where we see 1300 MW of utility grid battery storage is targeted to be installed by 2020. I would love to see EWEA reposition ourselves as the people who think out the solutions not just within our industry but to interpret our industry broadly and supply the electricity customer with the full solution of renewable energy by 2050.

Meanwhile Andreas Schröter of DNV GL, the world’s largest resource of independent energy experts (uniting Garrad Hassan, KEMA, DNV, GL Certification), told Power Engineering International that his advisory is directly focused on reducing the costs associated with the offshore wind sector.

DNV GL announced the launch of its guideline “Subsea power cables in shallow water renewable energy applications”.

The document looks at costly subsea cable related problems that often arise from inadequate risk identification, lack of planning, sub-standard design and deficiencies in how procedures are applied. To date, cabling failures have cost millions of euros in delays and numerous legal disputes.

Mr Schroter who is Executive Vice President Renewable Certification for the advisory told PEi “There are various studies that have been published that agree costs for offshore wind have to come down below EUR100 per MW/hr and we are committed to helping industry to meet that target.”

“The Iberdrola CEO said today that without a 40 per cent cost reduction, offshore will die. This may be a drastic statement but we would like to play our part to make the cost reduction possible.”

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