European electricity margins are shrinking

The amount of spare electricity generating capacity in Europe is shrinking as investment in new capacity fails to keep pace with the growth in demand according to the consultancy Capgemini.

The average margin dropped to 4.8 per cent over the winter of 2005-2006, one percentage point lower than the previous year. The countries with the smallest margins include the United Kingdom, France, Belgium and Greece.

Over the past five years most EU states have failed to increase capacity to keep pace with demand. Spain is the worst case with capacity rising by 8 per cent while peak demand rose by 15 per cent. Only Ireland increased its margin by a significant level.

In the UK, the National Grid and Ofgem are forecasting a tight supply situation over the coming winter. According to Research and Markets, UK spot and forward wholesale gas prices will be extremely volatile and record prices for both gas and electricity are anticipated.

UK power generators are in a particularly difficult position as they wait for a government white paper on future energy supply which was supposed to have been published before the end of the year. This paper will not now appear before March next year.

Scottish offshore site hosts 5 MW turbine

A 5 MW wind turbine has been installed in the Scottish North Sea. The turbine, supplied by German company REpower, sits in 44m of water at the Beatrice demonstration wind farm owned by Talisman Energy. A second 5 MW turbine will also be installed at the site, 25km from the port of Nigg where the components of the two wind turbines were shipped for assembly.

Meanwhile REpower has also signed a contract with Grenzstrom Vindtved GmbH for the installation of three 5 MW wind turbines in Westre, North Frisia. The company is further to supply six 5 MW turbines to the offshore test field at Borkum West in the German North Sea, which eventually will host twelve such turbines.

Flamanville turbine island order placed with Alstom

The French utility EDF has placed a €350m ($447m) order for the turbine island for the European Pressurised Reactor plant at Flamanville, France, with Alstom. The system will comprise a 1750 MW turbine island based on the company’s Arabelle steam turbine.

The turbine technology will be the same as that employed in the 1550 MW units at EDF power plant in Chooz and Civaux. The Flamanville turbine island will be designed for a 60 year life.

EU will miss its 2010 renewable target

The European Union will not reach the target for renewable electricity generation set five years ago, according to research company Datamonitor.

The target for 2010 sought to provide 22 per cent of electricity consumption in the EU from renewable energy sources. Datamonitor claims that this target was overambitious and that the new members of the EU cannot practically implement a renewable energy policy over the time scale available.

The directive also did not establish a framework for renewable access to electricity grids. Germany has used feed-in tariffs to successfully promote the growth of renewable generation while the UK’s market approach has so far proved less successful.

Forsmark reactors restarted

The two nuclear units at the Forsmark nuclear power plant in Sweden have returned to service after a two month shutdown caused by discovery of a fault in the power plant’s backup supply system.

The units were forced to shut down on 25 July following the discovery of the problem. Unit one at the Oskarshamn nuclear plant, which uses the same backup power system, was also shut down. The latter has already restarted.

Vattenfall, which owns a majority stake in Forsmark, said the shutdowns would result in $20m of lost revenue.

Ground-breaking for giant Whitelee wind farm

Construction work has started on a wind farm at Whitelee in Scotland. The wind farm, which is being built on Eaglesham Moor south of Glasgow by Scottish Power, will have a final generating capacity of 322 MW.

The wind farm is expected to cost £300m ($560m). It will cover an area of 55 km2 of moorland and comprise 140 wind turbines. Today around 16 per cent of Scotland’s electricity comes from renewable sources compared to 4 per cent for the whole of the UK.

News digest

Finland: Vattenfall is to buy a combined heat and power (CHP) plant in Finland from Fortum. The Hameenlinna CHP plant generates 65 MW of electricity and 95 MW of heat. Heat from the plant will be used to supply a districting heating network in Hameelinna owned by Vattenfall.

Germany: EnBW Energie and Siemens are planning to develop a hybrid fuel cell power plant based on solid oxide fuel cells. The plant will utilize a gas turbine to extract energy from the heat generated by the fuel cells. Following a pilot scale project, the companies hope to build a 1 MW plant in 2012.

Italy: Endesa has purchased a 50.1 per cent stake in two combined cycle plants in Italy, each with a capacity of 150 MW.

The Netherlands: A biomass fired power plant in the Netherlands town of Alkmaar will be based on a circulating fluidized bed boiler built by Foster Wheeler. The value of the contract is $29.5m.

Norway: The state utility Statkraft has announced plans for a wind farm with a total installed capacity that could reach 750 MW. The farm is to be built in Lebesby and Gamvik, Finmark, northern Norway. Called the Nordkyn wind farm, it would have an average annual output of 2.6 TWh.

Portugal: A photovoltaic power plant with a generating capacity of 62 MW is to be built by Acciona at Moura in Portugal. The first stage, involving installation of 40-45 MW will be finished by 2008 and the remaining capacity will be in place by 2010. The cost is estimated to be over €200m ($255m).

Spain: Denmark’s Vestas is to supply 35 of its V90, 1.8 MW and 2 MW wind turbines to Neo Energia, part of the Energias de Portugal group. The units will be installed at three wind farms in the Cadiz province of Andalusia in southern Spain. Delivery will be in the first half of 2008.

Sweden: A consortium of Hitachi and GE will build a gas fired cogeneration plant for E.ON Sverige in Malmo, Sweden. The plant will have an electrical output of 440 MW and a heat output of 250 MW.

UK: Voith Siemens Hydro and its subsidiary Wavegen have signed an agreement with npower renewables, part of RWE, with the aim of developing a 3 MW wave power plant based on Wavegen’s Limpet unit currently operating on the island of Islay.

UK: German company Lentjes is to supply and build two flue gas desulphurization units for two 500 MW coal fired units at the Rugeley power station in Staffordshire. The contract is worth €145m ($185m). The power plant is owned by Rugeley Power Limited, a subsidiary of International Power.