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BB200611, Policy News

The European Wind Energy Technology Platform Took Off

13.11.2006

On 19 October, the European Wind Energy Technology Platform (TPWind) was born. This event constitutes a n important milestone in a journey t hat started five years ago with the establishment of the Wind Energy R&D Thematic Network, charged with defining some priorit y research areas and with the set up of the only long-term R&D EU-funded project that is currently in operation: the UpWind project. Now, five years later, TP Wind takes off. It will start operating early next year. Between now and then, some intermediate steps, such as the appointment of the governing bodies, will take place.

Echos from the launch …

Introducing the session at the Charlemagne building, Arthouros Zervos, President of the European Wind Energy Association ( EWEA), focused on the first objective of the platform: to map out the priorities for wind energy research up to 2030 and to direct public and private funding towards targeted research areas. “Wind energy is already a European success story but it is still just a shadow of what it could be. Long term R&D and policy development to build markets must be undertaken if wind energy is to supply upto one fifth of European electricity in the coming decades”, added the President of EWEA, also Chairman of the Advisory Council of the Platform.

Energy Commissioner, Andris Piebalgs, started his speech reminding the audience of the Commission’s will to develop an Energy policy for Europe focusing on three crucial challenges: climate change, security of supply and competitiveness. "In the current context of climate crisis and energy uncertainty, we need to review the whole energy philosophy: we need to develop energy sources that do not use carbon, energy sources that are located in Europe, sources that are cost effective and competitive in the global market. This is the reason why this Technology Platform for wind energy is so important. It will lead to more wind energy in the future and we need it."

"I believe in wind energy and particularly in offshore wind. But there are still limitations linked to costs, to grid integration, etc. The wind sector needs a network and still needs R&D. I think that the platform will really make a difference. I’m happy that the Commission is supporting it", added Mr Piebalgs.

The Commissioner recalled the Renewable Energy Road Map currently under preparation in the Commission: "I believe in a target-based approach", explained Piebalgs, "and I believe it should be ambitious and should include sectoral targets".

Member of the European Parliament, Mechtild Rothe, is also convinced that the Technology Platform for wind energy will play a significant role in the development of the sector. "It will help reduce the cost of the technology and bring together all the wind actors. I believe the platform will also lead to better development of wind energy in the countries that are still not committed enough to wind."

Rothe stressed that the wind energy technology has made considerable progress but has not exhausted its potential for further technological development. "Offshore wind has to play an essential role in the near future. Therefore, a strong focus should be put on it, initially through the adoption of a European Offshore Action Plan that the Commission should initiate", she added.

Representatives from Member State Ministries gave the audience a national view on the future role of the technology platform. "In my opinion, if we want to guarantee a sustainable energy future, energy efficiency and renewable energy sources are key", said Joachim Nick-Leptin from the Federal Ministry for Environment in Germany. "In my country, the main R&D priorities are the development of offshore wind, grid integration, cost reduction but also research on environment issues especially for offshore. I’m convinced that my neighbours are facing similar challenges. Therefore, we see the technology platform as a great opportunity to strengthen the collaboration between national programmes and sharing of national experiences. There is a crucial need to join efforts and work together in the research field."

Ms. Isabel Blanco, EWEA Policy Director, explained the structure of the technology platform and what the next steps will be: "TPWind will be a comprehensive body that will gather all relevant stakeholders: the entire wind sector (manufacturers of turbines and components, end users, developers, environmental organisations, research organisations, laboratories, universities, financiers), but also representatives from the wider energy sector, to ensure the necessary link with other technology platforms such as Smart Grids and a good co-ordination with R&D efforts in energy related areas".

"TPWind will include representatives from the EU institutions, mainly the European Commission and the European Parliament, some of whom were already active in the preparatory process. Member States (national governments/ energy agencies/ research institutes) and other stakeholders such as NGOs and representatives of civil society will have a place within the technology platform", Blanco added.

The wind industry pointed out the priority research needs for the necessary development of the wind energy sector:

Frank Nielsen from LM Glasfiber focused on the need to reduce the cost of energy. "We have to constantly improve the existing technology and constantly test new machines, new blades; and constantly fine tune the methods of design. With this new platform, it is now the chance to come together and be stronger on a global market which is becoming more and more competitive. TP Wind is the necessary tool to share our knowledge", added Frank Nielsen.

For Mr. Strom Madsen from Vestas: "Europe needs to invest massively in R&D if we don’t want to loose the leadership we have today. The Technology Platform should set up a common agenda for R&D priorities in Europe and we should all work on the same projects – in order not to dilute the funding - and speak with one voice." José Miguel García Sayés, Project Manager R&D from Acciona Wind Power said : "R&D efforts are directed at improving the reliability of machines and developing prototypes for offshore turbines (5 MW turbines)".

The speech from Mr. Chaviaropoulos, Chairman of the European Academy of Wind Energy highlighted certain areas in which, despite the impression of some policymakers, fundamental R&D is still needed. Some of those fields pointed out by Mr. Chaviaropoulos refer to resources assessment; the development of new concepts for wind turbines; rotor aero-dynamics, aero-elastics and aero-acoustics; components; structural dynamics; wake interference and electrical and conversion control.

From the financial community, Nick Gardiner, Director Energy & Utilities at Fortisbank, closed the launch describing how financial institutions assess the risk of wind projects: "we look at wind studies (e.g. site selection, wind predictability); we also look at who will buy the power, what will be the maintenance needs, etc". For these financial partners the platform represents an important means to learn more about the functioning of the wind sector.

The structure of the Platform reflects the dual nature of the wind power industry: on the one hand, it will dedicate efforts to pure R&D areas, like materials, structural dynamics, electrical conversions and control, etc. On the other hand, it will seek to find solutions to market and structural barriers that are hindering its development.

The Platform will be managed by an EU-funded secretariat based in Brussels, at EWEA’s premises, which will take care of the day-to-day tasks. A fundamental body will be the Steering Committee, made up of a representative group of experts also responsible for chairing the working groups.

A Member State Mirror Group will be made up of national representatives, mainly governments, which will ensure that there are no overlapping or gaps between national R&D programmes on wind energy and TPWind. The Mirror Group will also constitute an optimum forum for informal discussion and exchange of information between them.

The bulk of the platform will be the working groups set up in each of the areas that are identified as key for R&D by the steering committee.

Finally, there will be a finance group made up of experts, who will explore and quantify opportunities for R&D funding, as well as potential sources of funding for the research activities recommended by the platform.

Next steps:

- The Secretariat has already been established through a EU funded project: WindSec.
- A Call for Expressions of Interest in membership of the Steering Committee was launched during the summer and the selection process is taking place now. Results will be available before the end of the year.
- Working Groups / Finance Group / Mirror group will be selected at the beginning of 2007.
- The Secretariat and the Advisory Council that are now taking the lead will ensure an open and transparent process in line with the stipulations of the European Commission.

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