World’s first 6 MW turbine park

» By | Published 25 May 2010 |

Eleven turbine towers, six of which are already connected to the electricity grid providing power to thousands of homes, stand tall and proud on the Levant de Mons plateau near Estinnes, Belgium. It’s a grey, cold day when we visit and the wind’s obvious strength is turning the blades at a consistent rate of knots.

What’s different about these turbines is the sheer amount of power they can produce – at 6 MW each they are the largest ever to be installed on land. Once all these impressive machines are connected to the grid, they will provide power for 50,000 homes – more than enough to keep the lights on in nearby town Mons.

Built by Enercon, these E-126 turbines sit on a 27 metre-large concrete foundation and are connected to the electricity grid via 11km of underground cables. Installing them requires one of the world’s largest cranes and hefty lorries capable of transporting the turbine and its components from the factory in Germany to the farm in Belgium.

We pick our way through the pools of mud surrounding the turbines and go inside a turbine tower where the noise of electricity-generation is intense. The tower is 131 metres tall and inside is a panel indicating just how much electricity is being produced at the time, wind speed and direction, and whether or not the turbine is connected to the grid. WindVision, the company developing the project, estimates that annually the Estinnes turbines will produce 187,000,000 kWh of electricity.

Back outside and close-up to the tower, today, the noise is no louder than the sound of the wind or traffic passing on the nearby main road. In addition, turbines are now slowed down at night to reduce sound from the wind turbines reaching residents.

Local children have already adorned the grey towers with wind-friendly messages such as “les éoliennes, c’est cool,” and “je suis folle des éoliennes.”

Once the Estinnes park has been completed, WindVision hopes 6 MW turbines will be installed across Europe.


Wind power lowers electricity prices in poor Central American nation

» By | Published 20 May 2010 |

Interest in wind power in tropical Nicaragua got a boost recently when AEI, an owner-operator of essential energy infrastructure businesses in emerging markets, bought a controlling share of the largest wind plant operation in Central America.

The 63 MW Amayo I and Amayo II wind plants provide approximately 8% of the total power consumed in Nicaragua, which has a population of 5.9 million and is the poorest country in Central America.

Located on the shores of Lake Nicaragua 11 kilometres north of the Costa Rican border, the Amayo plants are expected to displace more than 400,000 barrels of imported oil per year and reduce around 175,000 tonnes of CO2 annually. A press release says the two-phase Amayo project has already helped lower electricity prices for the country in addition to providing environmental benefits.

AEI, which has nearly 15,000 employees, bought a 47.5% interest in each of the two wind farms from Arctas Capital Group, and a 47.5% interest in the Amayo II project from its partner Centrans Energy Services Holdings. AEI and Centras now have a 95% share in Amayo, which is reported as representing an investment of approximately US $150 million.

“AEI is excited to be adding our first renewable energy project to our portfolio of consolidated power generation assets,” Jim Hughes, CEO of AEI, said in a press release.

“This project adds competitively priced and much needed electricity to the local power grid, and also serves to complement our existing thermal power generation assets in Nicaragua. We strive to bring the best energy solutions to our customers and are delighted to be adding an energy source that does not rely on imported fuels.”

A much smaller, local-level wind energy project is also getting off the ground in the Nicaraguan village of Cajiniquil thanks to the Koru Foundation, which sets up renewable energy projects in poor countries to give communities access to electricity.

An integrated hybrid wind and solar PV system, consisting of a 1kW locally constructed wind turbine and 300W solar panels, the project will supply the 13 households in the village with a clean, renewable electricity supply for powering electrical lights, powering a water pump to provide the community with a supply of clean water, and improving services at the school, health and community centres.

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Britain needs to tap into more wind energy to power its future

» By | Published 18 May 2010 |

Although it is always wise to take promises made during an election campaign with a grain of salt, a statement about wind power that was made last week just after Britain’s Conservatives and Liberal Democrats agreed to form a coalition government was encouraging to the rapidly developing emissions-free sector.

Chris Huhne, the UK’s new Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, said in an interview that it was scandalous that Britain has not done more to develop wind power and other renewables.

“We literally have an abundance of potential renewable energy and yet we have one of the worst records of any country in the European Union for generating electricity from renewables,” Huhne was reported as saying. “We have got to get renewables way up, we’ve got to make sure we’re much more energy efficient.”

A Liberal Democrat who likes wind turbines, Huhne described Britain as “sitting on the part of Europe that has the most potential for wind power.”

The new coalition government has agreed to increase the amount of energy the nation derives from wind power and other renewables. They also agreed to “fulfill our joint ambitions for a low carbon and eco-friendly economy.”

It’s also worth noting that during the recent election campaign, the Liberal Democrats called for up to 15,000 more wind turbines to be built.

All of this is welcomed by the wind power sector, which is increasingly being used by European politicians, economists and environmentalists to help usher in a new green economy that rejects the continued use of harmful and expensive fossil fuels.


FAQs: Wind energy basics

» By | Published 18 May 2010 |

Have you ever wondered what a wind turbine is made of? Or maybe you’ve found yourself questioning how fast turbine blades turn or how the wind is measured. Here is a small extract from our new frequently asked questions section that could provide you with the answers you’ve been looking for.

What is a wind turbine made of?

The towers are mostly tubular and made of steel or concrete, generally painted light grey. The blades are made of glass-fibre reinforced polyester or wood-epoxy. They are light grey because it is inconspicuous under most lighting conditions. The finish is matt, to reduce reflected light.

How fast do turbine blades turn ?

The blades rotate at anything between 15-20 revolutions per minute at constant speed. However, an increasing number of machines operate at variable speed, where the rotor speed increases and decreases according to the wind speed.

For more answers to your questions, click here


Wind energy to help power next month’s World Cup in South Africa

» By | Published 14 May 2010 |

As hundreds of millions of excited people watch 2010 FIFA World Cup action next month, a newly-erected wind turbine is expected to be churning out power for one of the 10 stadiums hosting the football matches in South Africa.

The Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth is to receive power during the World Cup between 11 June and 11 July from the first of 25 turbines set up by Electrawinds at the Coega wind farm project in Eastern Cape province.

According to Engineering News, Emil Unger, Electrawinds’ South African representative, said earlier this week that the first turbine, which will have a  capacity of 1.8 MW, would provide power to the stadium free during World Cup matches. “It’s our way of giving back to the city,” Unger said, adding the official switch-on date is 30 May.

Electrawinds’ MD Luc Desender told Engineering News that the company has already laid the foundation work for the Vestas wind turbine, which arrived from Denmark on Sunday. Completion of the wind farm is expected in 2011. Desender noted the start of construction marked the first commercial wind project in South Africa and is Belgium-based Electrawinds’ first operational project outside Europe.

That the Beautiful Game — as football, or soccer, is often called — will be helped out by emissions-free wind power is, frankly speaking, something to celebrate, even before the highly-anticipated World Cup begins.