GE tests prototype 3.6 MW offshore wind turbine

GE Power Systems has developed the first wind turbine over 3 MW for commercial use in offshore locations and is currently testing a prototype at an onshore location in Spain. The 3.6 MW wind turbine has been supplying power to the Spanish grid for energy supplier Iberdrola since September 2002.

Based on the GE 1.5 MW wind turbine series – over 1150 of which are in operation worldwide – the 3.6 MW machine is designed for higher wind speeds with an increased generator size. The hub of the offshore variant will stand 75 m high with a rotor diameter of 104 m and a swept area of 8495 m2.

The prototype features a proven distributed drive train, variable rotor speed (8.5-15.3 r/min), blade pitch regulation and a double fed asynchronous generator as well as an improved gearbox and adjustments to the structure to enhance load absorption and optimize assembly.

Government agrees aid for British Energy

The UK government has agreed on measures to help nuclear generator British Energy remain solvent. A £650m ($1bn) loan facility will be extended to March 9 by which time the company must have agreed its restructuring programme and £2.1bn will be made available for decommissioning and spent fuel liabilities.

Adrian Montague, who has replaced Robin Jeffery as British Energy’s chairman and CEO, announced a loss of £337m for the six months to September due to restructuring costs as well as a drop in output and lower electricity prices. The company is expected to finalize shortly the sale of its North American interests AmerGen and Bruce Power in order to repay debt.

Weak UK power prices have also threatened to sink Britain’s largest power station AES Drax, after the collapse of its key customer TXU Europe, although uncertainty over British Energy’s future has led to a slight recovery in prices.

Ministers agree pan-European emissions trading

European Union environment ministers have agreed to create the world’s first international greenhouse gas emissions trading system which, subject to European Parliament approval, will commence in 2005. The cap and trade scheme is intended to better enable the EU to meet Kyoto targets for cutting emissions of carbon dioxide.

Without further action the EU would fall short of its target of an average eight per cent below 1990 levels by 2010.

Aquila gains UK approval

UK energy minister Brian Wilson has granted permission to Aquila to build a 860 MW CCGT power station in Southampton, England. The $600m project will be on the former Marchwood power plant on the river Test.

Aquila is proceeding with the project despite its decision to exit energy trading and put up for sale a number of assets including a stake in UK energy supplier Midlands Electricity and UK gas storage sites.

Dry spell sets power prices soaring in Nordic region

A lack of rainfall since the summer has led to record high wholesale electricity prices in hydropower-reliant Scandinavia. Reservoir levels are at a ten-year low and the shortage of capacity is set to clash with the winter period of peak demand.

Demand has been growing the already energy intensive region and this has not been matched by new generating capacity. Finland has been forced to rely more on Russian imports while Denmark, with coal-fired power plants, is the only Scandinavian country able to export power.

High power prices coupled with low industrial returns among Norwegian metal producers have prompted some firms to consider halting output and instead sell their cheaper power obtained through long term contracts to households.

EU gives German gas fired power plant market a boost

An EU decision to allow Germany five-year tax exemptions for new gas fired power plants is expected to encourage new environmentally friendly and efficient power plant projects as well as attract new players into the market.

“This is another important building block in our energy policy,” said German environment minister Juergen Trittin in a statement. “This will be good for competition, promote innovation and keep a lid on the cost of environmentally sound power generation.”

The statement did not reveal details of the EU decision but it is expected that it will give the green light to a number of utilities planning large combined cycle gas turbine plants which can achieve much higher levels of efficiency than other plants and which can be constructed and operational more quickly.

News digest

Austria: Alstom has been awarded a contract to upgrade a gas turbine block, featuring a GT13DM originally supplied in 1980, for the Korneuburg B combined cycle power plant, located north-west of Vienna, Austria. The order was placed by EVN AG.

Denmark: All 80 wind turbines at Elsam’s new offshore wind farm at Horns Rev are now in operation and undergoing testing. The turbines, located 14-20 km off the Danish coast in the North Sea, will be capable of generating 160 MW at full operation.

France: The first industrial turbine generator unit of VA Tech Hydro’s ECOBulb has successfully gone into commercial operation in Aubas, central France. The ECOBulb offers high efficiency combined with low environmental impact.

Greece: The Athens 2004 Olympic Organizing Committee has awarded a $13m contract for the provision of power for the games to a consortium led by ABB. The contract involves ABB building one of four 150 kV distribution substations and is part of a programme to upgrade the regional power network.

Italy: Enel has ordered 181 wind turbines from Spanish turbine manufacturer Gamesa with an option for 40 more. The 187 MW order is worth g115m and delivery is scheduled from January 2003 to the end of 2004.

Italy: GE Aeroderivative and Package Services has supplied replacement power generation equipment to Azienda Generale Servizi Municipali di Verona including a new LM2500 gas generator and an overhauled LM2500 power turbine, reducing its outage period from three to one week.

Netherlands: BP and ChevronTexaco have begun the commercial operation of their jointly owned Nerefco wind farm located on a brownfield site near Rotterdam, Holland. The $23m, 22.5 MW project is producing electricity for the Dutch grid.

Spain: Austria’s VA Tech Hydro has won an order from Ferroatlantica worth g1.5m to upgrade its O Novo Pindo hydroelectric power station, including providing a new turbine generator unit, a horizontal 10 MW Francis turbine .

UK: A total of 20 Nordex N80/2500 kW wind turbines have been ordered by Fred Olsen Renewables Limited at a cost of E37m for its Crystal Rig wind farm near Dunbar, Scotland.

UK: A new code of practice aimed at stamping out misselling in the UK energy sales industry has received a welcome from regulator Ofgem. The code, developed with electricity watchdog Energywatch, commits all major energy suppliers to higher standards.