Scotland says no to wind farm

Scotland has refused the go-ahead for the 650 MW Lewis wind farm in the Western Isles.

Energy Minister Jim Mather said that the development of 181 turbines would have had “significant adverse impacts” on the Lewis Peatlands Special Protection Area, which features a many rare and endangered birds.

Mather sais that European legislation requires a set of specific procedures to be followed when proposals affect Special Protection Areas. He said: “I considered all the relevant issues and concluded it would not be possible to approve this application.”

Developer Lewis Windpower, a joint venture between British Energy Group and AMEC, said the decision represents a “huge missed opportunity” for renewable projects in Scotland and its fight against carbon emissions.

The company had worked on the project for six years.

Scotland has a target to produce 31 per cent of electricity demand from renewables by 2011 and 50 per cent by 2020. Mather added that renewable sources in the Western Isles would be exploited but that onshore windfarms were the likely option.

The locale of the rejected wind farm is also protected under the European Community Habitats Directive.

Germany may revise law on renewables

Germany could amend a law aimed at increasing its use of renewables, which has seen an emphasis on solar and higher consumers’ energy bills.

Under the legislation called EEG, adopted in 1991, power utilities have to cross-subsidize renewable electricity by buying it at a feed-in tariff that is greater than the market rate.

Germany is now eager to revise the EEG to encourage non-solar renewable projects such as offshore wind developments. Its changes to the law would reduce the feed-in tariff for solar by 9.2 per cent in 2009 and further falls of 7 per cent and 8 per cent.

France’s nuclear watchdog highlights ‘catastrophic’ reactor problems

A leaked letter from France’s nuclear safety watchdog ASN has said that the country’s nuclear power plants face catastrophic problems.

The letter calls for the malfunctions that the ASN has highlighted in the construction of the 1650 MW Flamanville 3 plant in Basse-Normandie be fixed within a month.

France’s generating company EDF is building the plant, which it says will consume less fuel than older reactor designs because of its more efficient assemblies and higher turbine efficiency.

The €3.3bn ($5.1bn) plant is not far from the UK, where in his recent visit to the country France’s President Nicholas Sarkozy encouraged the sale of French reactors and nuclear expertise.

UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Mr Sarkozy have pledged to cooperate on a new generation of nuclear power plants by sharing information on waste disposal, safety and security.

UK regulator warns of fines for energy companies

United Kingdom regulator Ofgem has warned utilities that it will fine them if they mislead it in its upcoming investigation into power prices.

A storm in the UK over rising energy bills forced the organisation to announce it would probe energy firms, the six largest of which have increased their prices this year. Companies must now disclose all of their confidential information about their business and trading practices, including information about how much they pay for electricity and the profit margin they get when they resell to customers. Findings from the investigation will become public in September.

Ofgem says it aims to tackle fuel poverty in the UK. The UK’s six biggest energy companies put their price rises this year down to the increasing cost of electricity and gas on the wholesale markets.

Spain’s wind plans could hit snag

Spain’s grid operator Red Eléctrica d’Espaàƒ±a (REE) has limited the proportion of wind generation to 30 per cent of the energy mix to prevent disruption.

Spain has an installed base of 15 GW of wind capacity and a target to raise this to 20 GW by 2010 and 30 GW by 2030.

Wind power producers are worried that wind facilities will experience downtime once the REE limit is breached. REE set its limit after wind had increased as a fraction of total generation and caused wide variances in over-the-counter power markets.

REE has suggested that raising the capacity of turbines and linking Spain’s grid with that of France could make it less vulnerable to wind unavailability.

EU may fast-track CCS projects

An EU plan to accelerate efforts to capture and store CO2 would see 12 demonstration projects get quick approval.

The European Commission has already proposed to create legislation to fund the CCS projects and create a legal framework for such schemes. It could also prevent the energy reforms it announced in January from affecting CCS projects. The aim of such a move would be to get political consensus about CCS among EU ministers in a meeting they will have in June.

Power companies in threesome to test CO2 scrubbing

Three power companies are to create a test facility to investigate CO2 capture from flue gas.

Electrabel and German utility E.ON Kraftwerke will join Hitachi Power Europe of Japan in a research project to design, build and operate a plant that operates under real conditions to determine which chemical solvents are best at scrubbing the gas from flue emissions.

This pilot installation will integrate into an Electrabel site and an E.ON Kraftwerke site to carry out its tests but will also be able to move to various plants in Europe. It will be able to treat up to 5000 Nm3/hour of flue gas and will run for four years for periods varying from 12-24 months.

Hitachi will design, implement and staff the test installation.

The test facility is part of Hitachi’s global R&D strategy for power systems that includes among its aims the study of CO2 capture and the reduction of emissions in general. Electrabel and E.ON Kraftwerke aim to use the test installation to gain hands-on experience of post-combustion carbon capture, to improve the process and employ it in their power plants.

UK coal plant plans receive blow

The UK’s plans for coal fired generation appear in disarray now that E.ON has asked the government to defer its decision on whether the company’s Kingsnorth plant should get the go-ahead.

The company says approval for its plant, which would be the country’s first coal-fired power station to be built since 1984, should be postponed until the government has finished its consultation into carbon capture and storage (CCS).

E.ON UK chief executive Dr Paul Golby questioned how his company could demonstrate that carbon capture works on a commercial scale without first building a power station that is CCS ready and then fitting the technology to it.

UK nuclear body awards its first contract

The UK Nuclear Decommissioning Authority has awarded its first contract for the operation of a nuclear site since the organisation’s foundation in 2005.

Under the deal, a consortium including Areva will manage the UK’s low-level waste repository in West Cumbria and implement a national strategy to manage low-level waste from the decommissioning of 20 nuclear sites across the country.

The French group says the contract could be worth $1bn if extended to its full 17-year term.

Other consortium members include URS Corp, Studsvik of Sweden and outsourcer Serco Group.

Europe’s largest windfarm starts generating power

Europe’s largest windfarm has begun to generate power to the UK national grid as an initial 20 of its Siemens turbines out of its planned 140 have been installed.

Completion of the 320 MW Whitelee project in Scotland will be in the second half of 2009, when the scheme will be generating enough power for 180 000 homes.

Whitelee’s turbines turn at 17 revolutions per minute, and each can rotate by 360à‚º. ScottishPower has installed a monitoring centre at the site to measure the generation at Whitelee and its other wind farms.

ScottishPower says the project will reduce CO2 emissions by 650 000 tonnes a year.

The company also claims that the windfarm’s construction site is as large as the city of Glasgow. It includes 90 km of roads and bridges to allow the turbines to be transported across boggy ground.

Installation of the turbines followed a five year planning delay and 18 months of preparation of the site.

London OKs tidal stream generation

In what will be the first instance of grid-connected tidal generation in the UK, London has given the green light to a tidal stream generation scheme.

Government backing of à‚£0.88m ($1.75m) will help fund Pulse Tidal’s prototype generator in the Humber river as part of an attempt to develop 1 MW devices that could be used in arrays of up to 100 MW.

The device extracts a maximum of 1.5 MW from subsurface currents that flow past it during tidal movements of water. It comprises a pair of straight horizontal hydrofoils of 11 metres length that, under the action of the tidal flow, move up and down like a dolphin’s tail to generate electricity.

German plant to get new boilers

Alstom is to help raise the efficiency of a bituminous coal plant in Germany by supplying it with new boilers.

RWE Power’s Westfalen power station has two 800 MW units that will be about 46 per cent efficient when the new boilers are online in 2011. Alstom says this compares with a European average of 36 per cent for existing plants fired by bituminous coal.

Under the €500m ($782m) contract, Alstom will supply the supercritical boilers to operate at steam temperatures of 600à‚ºC.

Bulgaria: Solar Energy Group and its Spanish partner Helium Energy are to build a 50 MW solar park in Pazardhik for $24m.

Denmark: Dong Energy aims to have a full-scale carbon capture and storage test plant ready in 2015. The plant may save the company $0.5bn by allowing it to sell CO2 quotas from 2013.

Denmark: Dong Energy will bid for 200 MW Rodsand 2 offshore windfarm. It may also bid for two other offshore projects that have been included in a new government new energy agreement.

Estonia: Minister of Economic Affairs Juhan Parts has urged the country’s parliament to make an initial decision about a proposed nuclear plant this year. Under International Atomic Energy Agency rules, the decision to build such a power station must begin with a conceptual decision, followed by a political decision, followed by development of the project. This process can take 15 years.

France: Following the rejection by the government of EDF’s proposal to raise the price of electricity for commercial customers by 25 per cent, the company has now learned that it will soon be unable to set tariffs.

France: Gas company GDF has stated that it aims to build 1 GW of wind projects in the country by 2012, a big rise from the 140 MW of wind it has already installed here.

Ireland: The Irish Wind energy Association says that up to €6bn ($9.3bn) will be invested in wind over a decade in an effort to help meet the government’s renewables target of producing one third of the country’ total demand from green sources.

Ireland: Utility ESB aims to spend €22bn ($34bn) to produce a third of its power from renewables by 2020. Of this, €11bn will go into upgrading networks to be able to accept an expected surge in wind generated power, while €6.5bn will go into facilitating renewables by, for example, installing smart meters in homes nationwide.

Italy: A government initiative to encourage solar power has resulted in the installation of 100 MW of such capacity. Under the programme, generators of photovoltaic energy receive a premium for their power.

The Netherlands: Repairs to the 700 MW cable that will be the first direct link from the country to Norway are complete. Cross-border trading of electricity via the interconnector should begin in May 2008.

The Netherlands: Utility Nuon is to build combined-cycle gas fired plants at two of its facilities as part of its strategy to modernize its generation infrastructure. The first will be a 500 MWe plant in Hemweg, the second a 500 MWe plant as part of a new CHP installation in Diemen.

Norway: Carbon scrubbing at the Karsto gas fired plant will cost much more than expected, according to Stavanger University. Government estimates are Kr5bn ($1bn).

Poland: RWE Innogy has awarded Siemens a €100m ($156m) contract to supply 33 turbines rated at 2.3 MW each for the Suwalki and Tychowo windfarms. The projects will come onstream in 2009.

Romania: Power generator Termoelectrica has commissioned Germany’s E.ON and Italy’s Enel to build an 800 MW coal-fired power station in Braila. Termoelectrica is also looking for investors in planned plants of capacities 700 MW and 900 MW in three other locations.

Serbia: Power monopoly EPS has signed a protocol with Russia’s Inter Rao to build generating capacity in the country.

Spain: Tenerife island is to receive two GE Frame 6FA gas turbines and related equipment for the extension of its Granadilla combined cycle power plant. Under the €90m ($141m) contract, the turbines will join two other Frame 6FA units at the plant. Total output will be 230 MW.

Spain: Suez Group subsidiary Société Hydro Electrique du Midi has inaugurated its La Verna hydroelectric plant in Sainte-Engrace. The dam is 700 metres in height and outputs 4 MW.

Ukraine: Westinghouse of the US is to supply the country with a quarter of its annual demand for nuclear fuel in a five year deal that will begin in 2011.

UK: Siemens is to build a $1.3bn, 850 MW combined-cycle power plant in Uskmouth at the site of a decommissioned coal fired plant by 2010. It will have an efficiency of 58 per cent and will comprise two SGT5-4000F gas turbines.