Feature: Wind energy R&D – the essentials
The Strategic Energy Plan (SET) is the EU’s blueprint for building-up Europe’s use of renewable energies. It sets out plans to develop the technologies needed to meet the EU’s objective of raising the amount of renewable energy in the EU’s energy mix to 20% by 2020. Wind energy, as the leading green energy technology in Europe, will play a huge part in reaching the target.
To get to that point, the European Commission, with the help of industry experts, has drawn-up several tools. One of those is the wind energy roadmap. This map outlines research and development goals in the wind industry for the coming decade. It aims to see the building of extensive testing facilities for turbines – areas where manufacturers can test the strength of the latest blade designs to the limits. As well as next-generation turbines that could have an energy production capacity of 10-20 megawatts.
But, as with any initiative, the roadmap needs financing. That’s where the Commission’s recently published communication on low carbon financing comes in. Overall, the Commission is proposing that €50 billion should be spent on financing the planned growth in renewable energies. The proportion allocated to wind alone is €6 billion.
The wind industry is more than ready to implement the roadmap; it just needs more detail on the funding plan – where exactly will the funding come from? In fact, failing to identify specific funding sources could quickly generate a loss of momentum for the wind roadmap and, hence, the goals set out in the SET plan and, as a knock-on effect, the EU’s 2020 targets.
Funding is not the only short-coming of the Commission’s wind energy roadmap – there’s a lack of coordination between all the renewable energy sectors regarding another of the Commission’s tools – the electricity grids roadmap. All renewable energies need an upgraded grid so that power can flow from its sources to the consumer. For wind, where some sources could be far offshore in the wind-swept North Sea, upgrading Europe’s ageing electricity grids to allow large amounts of renewable energy to reach consumers is imperative.
Wind power, as an expanding industry, will also rely on skilled people, that’s why the wind industry is calling on the Commission to create training initiatives so that we can start giving people the skills we need to build a greener future.
February 2008 – EU adopts the SET Plan
December 2008 – EU ministers agree to carbon-cutting and renewable energy 2020 goals
October 2009 – Commission proposes low-carbon financing communication
October 2009 – SET Plan conference, Stockholm
Spring 2010 – EU ministers set to give green light to low-carbon financing communication