Airtricity unveils plans for pan-European ‘Supergrid’

Airtricity, the Irish wind energy company, is seeking political support for an initiative to build a pan-European subsea electricity grid. The company is seeking support for its Supergrid initiative, the first phase of which is a 10 GW windfarm project in the North Sea costing €22bn ($27.7bn), connected to the national electricity grids in Britain, Germany and the Netherlands.

The ultimate aim is to create a system that would link offshore windfarms in the Mediterranean to the Bay of Biscay, the Atlantic, the North Sea and the Baltic Sea, able to harness wind energy at all times with the wind energy generated being a common European resource.

The company started work on the initiative with the Swiss engineering group ABB last September and plans to use HVDC Light technology. “Europe needs a reliable, secure and environmentally friendly energy supply,” said Airtricity chief executive Eddie O’Connor. “Supergrid supports that aim and will be capable of helping Europe meet its 2010 targets and achieving energy independence.”

Commission raids energy companies

EU investigators have searched the offices of a number of major German energy groups for the second time in a matter of weeks. The European Commission declined to name the companies involved but said that the inspections were not part of its energy sector competition inquiry. However, in a statement the Commission said, “Surprise inspections are a preliminary step in investigations into suspected anticompetitive practices.”

On May 16 the Commission launched more than 20 raids on the premises of energy giants such as E.ON, RWE, Gaz de France, Distrigas and OMV as part of the its drive to open up EU energy markets.

Giant solar park for Portugal

Construction is underway on the world’s largest solar photovoltaic power project in Serpa, Portugal, 200 km southeast of Lisbon. The 11 MW project is costing $75m and comprises 52 000 photovoltaic modules. The plant is scheduled to enter full operation by January 2007.

Funding has come from GE Energy Financial Services with the design, equipment supply and operation being carried out by PowerLight Corporation. Catavento, a Portuguese renewable energy company is providing management services.

ࢀ¢ Spanish company Acciona Solar is developing a 2.6 MW ‘solar garden’ on land belonging to the town of Socuéllamos in central Spain. The project comprises 395 trackers each with 45 photovoltaic panels.

UK is vulnerable to climate change

A new report compiled by the UK Met Office, E.ON UK. EDF Energy and the National Grid has found that the UK’s energy industry is highly sensitive to changes in climate. The report investigated how climate change will affect future energy use and what further information the industry may need to adapt to those changes.

Factors taken into account include how climate change could affect energy generation, transmission and distribution as well as demand. Among its findings the report warned that warmer temperatures could see peak demand shifting to the summer, fossil fuel plants operating less efficiently and infrastructure being affected by patterns of subsidence, flooding, icing damage and strong winds.

Nuclear back “with a vengeance”

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair has said that the issue of building new nuclear power stations in the UK is “back on the agenda with a vengeance”. The pronouncement will be welcome news to industry stakeholders, according to research by Datamonitor. Blair made his comments having seen the first cut of the government-commissioned energy review, due by the end of July.

Blair has also set up a Franco-British forum in which government officials, experts and the nuclear industry will hold talks covering research into new nuclear power stations and the management of nuclear waste.

ABB’s Italian job

ABB has won a $180m order from Italian transmission system operator Terna SpA to deliver a high voltage direct current (HVDC) power system connecting the grids of Sardinia and peninsular Italy.

The 1000 MW HVDC undersea link will carry surplus power between the Italian mainland at Latina and Sardinia and will contribute to the expansion of Europe’s transmission infrastructure.

The ABB contract includes the design and supply of two 400 kV converter stations. The two stations will be 420 km apart and the cables will be laid at depths of up to 1600 m.

News digest

Europe: A European Commission High Level Group on competitiveness, energy and the environment has recommended the full use of Commission powers to ensure a more competitive environment for electricity and gas supply.

Europe: New research from LogicaCMG reveals that while European consumers are environmentally conscious, financial cost is even more important when it comes to energy consumption.

France: The board of EDF has given its approval to construct a third nuclear reactor at Flamanville near Cherbourg, which will be the first European Pressurized Water Reactor (EPR) to be built in France.

Germany: MAN B&W Diesel has secured an order for a stationary engine running on bio-oil for a project in Germany.

Germany: Siemens has received orders for 17 wind turbines for three repowering projects in Germany and will supply larger units to replace smaller and older wind turbines.

Germany: Vattenfall has contracted with Alstom to build the steam generator for the world’s first carbon-free demonstration plant utilizing oxygen combustion technology at Schwarze Pumpe in Brandenburg.

Italy: Independent Resources Group plans to generate electricity using the pressure arising from natural gas contained in its proposed underground gas storage facility in Italy.

Netherlands: Austrian Energy & Environment in consortium with Siemens is to build a 36 MW biomass fired power plant using poultry manure for the BMC Moerdijk project company.

Spain: GE Energy is to supply a 209FB combined cycle system to Iberdrola for a new 858 MW power plant to be built in Castellon, north of Valencia, Spain.

Spain: The European Commission has launched a legal procedure against the Spanish government for introducing laws intended to prevent E.ON’s takeover of Endesa.

Switzerland: The Swiss utility EOS is to construct the country’s first combined cycle power station by 2010 in response to growing demand for electricity and the phasing out of nuclear power.

UK: E.ON is investigating the feasibility of refurbishing and re-equipping a mothballed gas-fired power station in Lincolnshire to coal fired generation with CO2 capture

UK: Mitsui Babcock has signed an agreement with Scottish and Southern Energy to undertake the front end engineering of a carbon capture ready 500 MW clean coal plant retrofit at Ferrybridge power station in Yorkshire.