Brussels, 20 Apr 2006
Renewable sources of energy remain a priority for ongoing European research and development. One of the EU's many activities in this field is the funding of a new Integrated Project under the Sixth Framework Programme (FP6) to combine the resources of more than 40 manufacturers, service providers, universities and other research organisations and businesses to improve the efficiency of wind power. The UPWIND IP will also be the largest single research project investigating wind power funded under FP6.
The European Commission will fund 14 million of the project's 22 million euro budget, which will run for five years. The project had been in negotiation for two years. Now up and running, it will manufacture super-efficient 20 MW wind turbines, with a wind-arm radius of around 120 m. 'It is the largest project of its kind and yet it represents just a tiny proportion of the work that has to be done. We hope to see a lot more projects like this,' said Hugo Chandler of the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA).
While Europe as a whole begins to harness the air, Member States are making headway into harnessing the sun and sea. Germany continues to lead the world, and dominate Europe, in the production of photovoltaic (PV) cells for electricity production according to the recent PV Barometer. Of the 1,793.5 MW of PV units installed in the EU, close to three-quarters are installed in Germany, which has more PV power than either Japan or the US.
For 2005, Germany installed a huge 603 MW of PV power. The rest of the EU installed a total of 42.3 MW across all Member States. Spain provided almost half of that figure, with 20 MW, followed by France at 6.3 MW, then Italy at 5 MW. As a whole, the quantity of PV installed grew by 18.2 per cent compared to 2004.
Amongst Germany's impressive array of PV projects is the massive Bavaria Solarpark, which covers 62 acres of land, providing 10 MW of power from this site alone. However, Europe has reached something of a plateau, as new photovoltaic cells are now more expensive due to a shortage of the essential raw material - silicon.
In Italy, the Kobold sea-turbine has been operating in the straits of Messina since 2001. It has proved a success, generating a steady 40 KW of power in the straits, renowned for their fierce currents, which were described in Homer's Odyssey as the Scylla and Charybdis - fierce currents or whirlpools. The turbines have now been attached to the Italian national grid. The Ponte di Archimede company manufactures the turbines, which are based upon designs used in wind turbines.