EUROPE

$10bn network upgrade for the UK

National Grid, the company responsible for managing the UK’s power network, has outlined plans for a à‚£10bn ($17.9bn) overhaul of the country’s transmission & distribution networks, which will help to support the 35 GW of renewable energy that is expected to come online by 2020.

The need to connect intermittent and remote sources of wind power to the grid has emerged as one of the largest obstacles facing the government and energy companies as they seek to meet the UK’s target of generating 15 per cent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020.

Speaking to the Sunday Times, National Grid revealed it is considering a number of options to tackle the problem, and is investigating a number of projects designed to connect the next generation of wind farms that are expected to provide around a third of the UK’s electricity by 2020.

In particular, it confirmed plans for new high voltage lines across mid-Wales to connect Welsh wind farms to the West Midlands. It is also weighing up whether to upgrade the current interconnector lines that carry power south from Scottish wind farms or instead invest in new undersea cables off the eastern and western coasts.

Spanish nuclear operator could face fine

Spain’s nuclear watchdog agency proposed a fine of up to €22.5m ($33m) over a leak at a nuclear power plant, accusing operators of being too slow in reporting it and downplaying the amount of contamination released.

The Asco plant experienced a leak in November last year, but plant operators did not detect it until March and then waited until early April to notify regulators, according to the Nuclear Safety Council.

The agency said the risk to humans and the environment was minimal, but that the plant’s operators had violated monitoring and incident-reporting rules. It also said Asco, owned by utility Endesa, had grossly under reported the amount of contamination released.

The agency proposed six sanctions against the plant, which is located on the Ebro River, 28 km upstream from the Mediterranean Sea.

However, it will be up to Spain’s Industry Ministry to decide whether to fine the company, and if so, how much it will be fined.

Irish energy group launches CCS project

Irish oil and gas group Providence Resources has launched a project that could lead to the first carbon capture & storage (CCS) scheme commerically operational in the British Isles.

Providence Resources is co-operating with Star Energy Group, a UK gas storage company that is owned by Petronas of Malaysia, on the Ulysses Project.

The scheme will evaluate the Kish Bank Basin in the Irish Sea to decide whether its underground saline reservoirs could be used for carbon sequestration and natural gas storage.

The viability study will take around one year and, if successful, will target use by the two Dublin-based Poolbeg power plants, both owned by Ireland’s Electricity Supply Board.

E.ON to build third UK biomass power plant at Bristol

E.ON has announced plans to invest $600m in a biomass power station at the Port of Bristol, making it E.ON’s third biomass plant in the UK.

At 150 MW, the proposed Portbury Dock renewable energy plant would generate enough power for more than 200 000 homes by burning wood that would largely be brought to the plant by boat, according to the German utility.

E.ON has issued a scoping statement to North Somerset Council, the Department and other interested parties, outlining the company’s plans and hopes to submit a full application in the middle of next year.

If the project gets the green light, construction is expected to start in 2010, with the first power being produced in 2013 and full operation by 2014.

Scotland to ‘bulk-buy’ electricity

The Scottish government has announced that it is to bulk-buy electricity for the whole public sector in an effort to save taxpayers’ money at a time of soaring energy bills.

Ministers have launched a tender to supply electricity on a national basis to all public bodies, replacing hundreds of individual contracts worth à‚£200m ($357m) a year. The deal will be centrally negotiated, according to Holyrood.

The contract is due to awarded at the end of this year, with purchases from the wholesale market being made from early 2009 onwards. The initial supply period of three years will run from October 2009 to September 2012, with options to extend for another year.

Norwegian carbon capture plant deal

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) has signed a contract to carry out the technical pre-studies for the planned carbon dioxide (CO2) capture plant in Norway from Gassnova SF.

If MHI’s pre-studies are qualified, it will compete with other companies on CO2 capture technology, performance of the facility and construction and operation costs of the planned carbon recovery plant. The planned facility will capture approximately 3000 tons of CO2 from flue gas emitted from an existing 420 MW gas fired power generation plant in Kàƒ¥rstàƒ¸, which is located on Norway’s southwest coast.

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Bulgaria: Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Limited of Japan has entered the arena of producing electricity from wind in Bulgaria, and selling it locally through Kaliakra Wind Power AD, to the state-owned utility, Natsionalna Elektricheska Kompania.

Denmark: According to a poll conducted by domestic news channel, DR Nyheder, all of country’s main political parties appear to support plans what will be the second largest wind farm, comprising 100 turbines.

Germany: The Merkel government has announced that it will spend $22m a year on atomic research, to ensure that its scientists keep up with the latest nuclear research, despite the agreement that all its nuclear plants will be shut down by 2020.

Greece: Solar developer Clear Skies Solar, in partnership with Aspen Energy, has been awarded a $1m contract to build a 150 kW solar plant in Greece, which will generate around 1800 kWh a year.

Italy: The first three units of Enel’s refurbished 1980 MW Torrevaldaliga Nord clean coal power plant have been inaugurated. Once fully operational in 2009, the plant is expected to be the most efficient in its class and have lower carbon emissions.

Spain: Spanish utility Iberdrola has won a €43m ($62.4m) contract to build a grid connection to nine onshore wind farms in the province of Huelva, in the south of Spain. The wind farms are due to come on-stream next year.

UK: Plans for Britain’s fourth largest offshore wind farm have been approved. The Sheringham Shoal farm will comprise 108 turbines and have a capacity of 315 MW, enough to power over 170 000 households.

UK: Fluor has awarded Siemens Energy a contract to connect the 500 MW Greater Gabbard offshore wind farm to the UK’s national grid, as well as supply the 140 turbines. Once operational Greater Gabbard will be the world’s largest offshore wind farm to date.

UK: A dam crucial to the generation of power at the 100 MW hydropower plant at Glendoe, Scotland – the UK’s first major such project since 1957 – has begun filling with water. The plant will generate power in early 2009.

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