Where will wind energy be in 2020?

» By | Published 11 Mar 2014 |

CEObannerIn five or six years’ time, the wind energy sector will see an end to regulatory uncertainty, increasing levels of consolidation within the industry and leaps ahead in technology – said CEOs speaking at EWEA 2014 in Barcelona today.

We will see “advanced technology that is subsidy free,” said Anne McEntee, Vice-President of renewables at GE, adding that the sector needs to get more inventive. Xabier Viteri, CEO of renewables at Iberdrola, concurred saying that technological breakthroughs and innovations will surface by 2020.

While Anders Runevad, President and CEO of Vestas, said that in the offshore market we will be “starting to see the results of offshore investments,” Viteri said that cost cutting in offshore “is a must”. “Without cost reductions there will be no offshore industry after 2020,” he warned, adding that costs must come down by at least 40%.


“I was the biggest polluter in Ireland”

» By | Published 10 Mar 2014 |


Eddie O’Connor, Irish wind energy entrepreneur and visionary – and winner of this year’s Poul la Cour prize for excellence in the field of wind energy – spoke to Sarah Azau at EWEA 2014 in Barcelona about his career so far, why climate change drives him in all he does, how to bring offshore wind prices down, and why wind and solar power are a winning team.

How do you feel about winning this award?

I feel very honoured, deeply grateful, delighted, lots of superlatives!

Andrew Garrad [EWEA’s president, who presented the award] is a really good guy, so it is very meaningful to receive it from him.

What for you is the most important discussion affecting Europe’s energy mix today?

We should be preoccupied with the fact that we can’t penetrate more than 30% wind in any one country so we need grids, we need a single European market for electricity – and we need to think about how it affects customer price wise.

How do you get the cheapest price? Well you build your wind offshore, where there are high capacity factors of up to 54%. Then you put your solar power in the south where the sun is. To have minimal cost renewables, you have to put wind and solar together. The price of solar is collapsing and it must continue to do so. In Europe we need to work on distribution and storage – we have a vested interest in all of this, we must ensure it happens, like it has in California. We’ll lose our lead here in Europe if we don’t adopt similar strategies.

You mention offshore wind – what needs to happen for it to become cost competitive?

You need bigger ships and dedicated ports, more experience with wind turbines and bigger wind turbines, 6 MW, and lots of know-how, special cranes. We’ll be able to see £150 per MWh today go down to £100 per MWh by 2020.

If you can build turbines on land and transport them out to sea prepared, in principle in one day you can load the ship, drive out and put up six turbines. It would make a gigantic difference to cost. We should be joining up with the photovoltaic people. We will supply the solution. How can you say power is cheaper in US when it’s all done on tax breaks, the industry in 2012 lost $8 billion, so how much is gas really? You can’t build an industry that loses money – I’d love to know the true cost of shale gas… You should do a proper environmental impact assessment – see how much methane it is letting into the atmosphere.

What do you see as the highlight of your career?

Well I built some very elegant engineering systems when working with the Electricity Supply Board in Ireland, then I went to Bord na Móna. When I arrived the company was losing 17 million, when I left we were making 5 million with 40% less staff. Then of course building electricity and wind  farms was very exciting – you got into the right area at the right time, economies were growing at that time, so I got lucky! Actually today the big achievement is still being alive today after three crises as we’ve had since I started Mainstream Renewable Power – first the financial collapse, then 2010 with investors not wanting to invest in Euros, and again in 2012.

You have been described as a visionary… why in the mid 1990s did you decide to put your money on wind energy?

I became a CEO just before 40, before that I was running a peat company, I was the biggest polluter in Ireland!  Then I met the scientist John Tyndall who passed radiation through various gases, and he found some of the light went through with no effect, and CO2 and methane absorbed stuff. It’s a scientitifc fact that when content of CO2 goes up, we are changing the climate of the planet. I became convinced of that in 1989 – I build first wind farm soon afterwards, and when I left that company in 1996 I shortly afterwards away set up Airtricity.

We are here in Barcelona at EWEA 2014 – what would you say to the Spanish wind energy sector, which is going through a difficult time?

I’d build grids, I’d integrate Spain and Italy, the Mediterranean area into the rest of Europe. Spain needs much bigger grids, linked profoundly with northern France, UK, Germany, east-west, and north south. I’d say to them, we all have tough times but remember that there is light at the end of the tunnel, with wind energy you’re not importing all that gas, you are saving billiions of tonnes of CO2, it’s a big native industry.


Top wind industry award goes to Mainstream chief Eddie O’Connor

» By | Published 10 Mar 2014 |

EddieOConnorawardThe wind energy industry’s prestigious Poul la Cour prize was awarded this afternoon to Airtricity and Mainstream Renewable Power founder Eddie O’Connor.

“This year, the award goes to someone who is a very rare breed: both a visionary and a businessman”, commented the president of the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) Andrew Garrad, presenting the award in Barcelona at the EWEA 2014 Annual Event.

O’Connor co-founded Irish wind farm development company Airtricity in 1997 – at a time when wind energy was a minor player in the energy mix – and acted as chief executive until he sold the company for around €2 billion to E.ON and Scottish & Southern Energy in 2008.

He went on to set up Mainstream Renewable Power, now six years old, which has 180 staff and offices around the world, and was until 2013 a member of the supervisory board of EWEA.

“Eddie is a very great colleague and dear friend,” said Garrad. “No-one could be more deserving of the Poul la Cour prize and it gives me enormous pleasure to award it to him.”

The EWEA 2014 Annual Event runs from 10-13 March in Barcelona: www.ewea.org/annual2014


IEA executive director: “We welcome a renewables target for 2030”

» By | Published 10 Mar 2014 |

The International Energy Agency (IEA) supports an EU renewable energy target for 2030 – this would reduce policy risk and so “bring down costs and put us on the path we want to be on”, stated Maria van der Hoeven, executive director of the IEA today at the European Wind Energy Association’s 2014 annual event in Barcelona.

However, in the absence of national targets a governance system to ensure countries contribute is necessary, she added, also emphasising the importance of power market integration.

Continuing the discussion on the power system, Portugal’s secretary of state for energy Artur Trindade, another keynote speaker at the session, said his country at times gets up to 90% of its power from wind energy. What do you think happens? He asked the audience. The answer is “nothing!” No-one notices, nothing changes, he stated: there are high levels of wind energy regularly in the Portuguese power system without an issue.

Enercon Managing Director and EWEA 2014 conference chair Hans-Dieter Kettwig referred to the dangerous regulatory instability for renewables in the EWEA 2014 host country, Spain, and called on the Spanish government to “break down the walls in your land and in your head” and restore a stable framework.

European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) president Andrew Garrad called for renewable energy targets for 2030 and stressed the energy security wind energy brings.  “Putin cannot turn off the wind energy tap” he said. EWEA launched a new report looking at how wind energy can avoid fossil fuel imports today.

EWEA 2014 runs from 10-13 March 2014: www.ewea.org/annual2014


EWEA 2014 opens its doors in Barcelona

» By | Published 10 Mar 2014 |

The months of anticipation are finally over – EWEA 2014 opens its doors for business in Barcelona this afternoon!

Headlining later today at the opening session will be Artur Trindade, Portuguese Secretary of State for Energy, Maria van der Hoeven, Executive Director at the International Energy Agency (IEA), Hasan Murat Mercan, Turkish Deputy Minister of Energy and conference chair Hans-Dieter Kettwig, Managing Director of ENERCON – all giving their insight into the issues affecting wind energy right now, and thoughts on how the sector is getting back to business.

Meanwhile the exhibition halls will open to reveal hundreds of companies and associations working in the wind energy sector from the world over. From weather forecasters to turbine parts, the whole supply chain and more will be represented.

Later on in the day, the conference programme will kick off with an indepth discussion about the upcoming UN climate change summit – why should the wind energy sector care about these high level negociations, and what can we do to make sure the power of wind energy in the fight against climate change is heard?

The first day of EWEA 2014 will end on a high – at the opening reception which will take place on the Siemens stand in the exhibition hall.

Find out how you can join the industry in Barcelona.