Brussels, 21 November 2005
An exhibition accompanying a major conference on renewable energy research will showcase recent successful projects in this field, financed by the European Commission. A selection of such projects are described below.
Geothermal energy makes use of the natural heat of the earth, and is therefore available to consumers at any time of the day or night, independent of weather and climate conditions. In Europe, about 95,000 dwellings are heated by geothermal energy. It has the capacity to generate about 1000 MW of electric power and is already operational in Europe.
In the EU project “European Hot Dry Rock” water is pumped into fissures deep in the ground, heated up and pumped back out again, creating in essence an artificial hot spring. A heat exchanger transfers energy to a second circuit that drives a turbine generator to produce electricity. Europe is currently the world leader in this technology. The European test site is located in Soultz-sous-Forêts (FR). After several exploratory actions, a scientific pilot plant is now being constructed in 2 phases (2001-2004, 2004-2007).
Project coordinator: Dr. Jörg Baumgärtner, Dr. André Gerard, European Economic Interest Grouping “Heat Mining”, Soultz-sous-Forêts, France.
Countries currently involved: France, Germany, Switzerland and Norway.
EU funding: €6.5 million for phase 1, € 5 million for phase 2.
Ocean energy makes use of tidal effects or waves to produce energy. The European teams developing tidal current devices, which extract energy from the sea, are world leaders: no other developers have shown progress beyond the theoretical drawing board. Two systems, producing 300kWe each, are currently being tested. The teams developing wave energy devices, which convert the movement of waves into useable energy, are also leading the world in this area.
The EU research project Wave Dragon is the world’s first offshore wave energy converter producing power for the grid in Denmark. Moored in water, the 237 tonne Wave Dragon recuperates energy that is generated by ‘overtopping’ waves. The water is initially stored in a reservoir and then passed through turbines which produce electricity. This prototype is a quarter of the size of the full system.
In comparison with traditional hydroelectric power stations, This new technology has the potential to be competitive when compared to hydroelectric power. Plans to build and deploy power production units elsewhere in the EU are already underway.
Project coordinator: Dr. Hans Chr. Sorensen, SPOK ApS, Copenhagen, Denmark.
Other countries involved: Sweden, Austria, UK and Ireland
EU funding: €1.5 million (2001-2005)
Concentrated solar thermal energy:
Concentrated solar thermal energy uses optical systems to generate heat from direct sunlight. European consortia are taking the lead by developing new components and new concepts: the Sol Air Project uses mirrors to redirect the sun’s energy towards a ceramic receptor that heats air which is, in turn, used to heat water. The vapour of the water then activates turbines which produce electricity. In the future, the size of solar power plants using central tower technology may vary from 10MWe to 100MWe, depending on the demand and on the land available.
Project coordinator: Dr. Manuel Romero Alvarez, Solucar S.A., Seville, Spain.
Other countries involved: Germany, Greece and Denmark
EU funding: €1.5 million (2000-2004)
Photovoltaic: Direct energy from the sun
The name comes from the principle in which “photons” (units of light) fall on a cell, generating a “voltage”. Examples of two projects on photovoltaic electricity are:
- “Roll-to-Roll” photovoltaic modules (Project H-Alpha-Solar): Silicon remains a key material in photovoltaic technology – but how to make it more flexible and cheaper? Researchers have collaborated to develop new thin film technology which paves the way towards cost effective mass production of silicon-based solar energy devices.
Other countries involved: France and Portugal.
EU funding: €2 million (2000-2004)
- An alternative to silicon (Project PROCIS): Researchers have developed an efficient low-cost technology, using alternatives to silicon (CIS), to generate cheaper solar cell modules. This is the start of the next generation of cost-effective solar-module processing technology.
Other countries involved: Sweden, France and Switzerland.
EU funding: €1.2 million (2001-2003)
Biomass: the green energy of Earth
Europe has vast resources of wood, agricultural residues and organic waste, which can be transformed into ethanol or used to produce hydrogen for fuel cells. Both will decrease our dependence on fossil fuels. Examples of two projects on bio-energy technology are:
- Biomass, not gasoline (Project TIME): If the Brazilians can fill their fuel tanks with a derivate of sugar cane and drive away, why doesn’t Europe use its biomass resources to do the same? An international research team is trying to provide a solution. They focus on converting biomass into ethanol (using the cellulose of plants and trees) as a replacement for gasoline.
Other countries involved: Denmark, Hungary, Italy, Sweden and the Netherlands.
EU funding: €2.6 million (2002-2005)
- Biomass to Bio-electricity (Project BIOELECTRICITY): Is “biomass & hydrogen” the perfect combination for future stationary and transport use? A team of leading research institutes and fuel cell manufacturers is investigating the conversion of biomass into hydrogen to produce electricity in a fuel cell.
Other countries involved: France, Greece, Italy, the UK and Italy.
EU funding: €1.6 million (2002-2005)
See also IP/05/1447 .