SETIS talks to Henning Kruse, Chairman of the European Wind Energy Technology Platform (TPWind).
TPWind is a network and R&D forum made up of more than 180 wind energy experts. TPWind was launched in 2006 and, since 2007, it has received EU funding. Its Secretariat is hosted by EWEA and managed in cooperation with Garrad Hassan, now part of the Germanischer Lloyd group, and DTU Wind (Technical University of Denmark).
TPWind advises European Institutions and Member States on the R&D priorities of the EU wind power sector. It also provides funding recommendations on wind energy R&D projects to ensure that public resources are allocated where the sector most needs them. This maximises the value for money of public funding schemes, and helps to optimise support for the sector and use of taxpayers’ money.
How successful has TPWind been in getting universities, industry and utilities to work together? What have been some of the successes and challenges?
TPWind has been extremely successful in involving all relevant players. The Platform has 184 members. About 52% of them are from industry (including utilities) and 35% from the R&D community, with the remaining 13% from consultancies, public authorities, certification bodies and associations. TPWind ensures a balanced and comprehensive representation of the EU wind energy sector.
In a few words, how is wind energy doing in terms of the SET-Plan targets regarding transition to a low-carbon economy?
In 2020, when the SET-Plan reaches its end, 34% of the EU’s power needs to be met by renewables. It is expected that 14% to 16% of all electricity consumption will be met by wind alone. Today wind is at around 7%, or halfway there.
The SET-Plan is instrumental in focusing research priorities constantly on increasing the efficiency and reliability of wind turbines and bringing down the cost of the energy they produce.
Onshore wind is a now a maturing technology. What are some of the remaining challenges, both technologically and in terms of public acceptance?
Onshore wind is technologically mature. And the European Wind Initiative (EWI) forecasts that onshore wind will become fully cost competitive in 2020, bearing in mind the current distorted electricity market situation that favours conventional fossil fuel generation.
From a technological point of view, TPWind’s goal is threefold:
- develop new turbine designs, materials and components supporting the upscaling of turbines (turbines of 10MW to 20MW);
- improve the efficiency and reliability of turbines, including for complex terrains and extreme climates;
- develop manufacturing processes and procedures for the mass-production of turbines.
To address social and environmental concerns, TPWind is focusing on reducing noise emissions, improving end-of-life policies and investigating wind power’s economic and social benefits.
Offshore wind technology is still developing. What have been some of the main innovations in recent years and what still remains to be done?
Offshore wind costs are still high because working at sea adds complexity. And the sector is younger, so there is still a lot of room for economies of scale. The industry expects to reach full competitiveness before 2030.
TPWind’s specific offshore objectives are:
- to develop new stackable, replicable and standardised substructures for large-scale offshore turbines;
- to develop floating structures;
- to develop manufacturing processes and procedures for the mass-production of substructures.
These are, naturally, complementary to the general objectives of turbine up-scaling and manufacturing.
Strategies and requirements for improved design and use of ports, vessels, installation logistics, and operation and maintenance (O&M) processes are important to speed up deployment and keep costs down. TPWind is also looking at grid infrastructure for offshore wind farms – how this can be optimised and how processes can be streamlined. Offshore grids are both an important cost component and require long-term planning.
How is the Northern Seas offshore grid coming along? What are the main challenges there?
The development of an offshore grid in the North Sea is a sine qua non condition for EU Member States to meet their offshore wind deployment objectives and the EU to meet its climate and energy targets, as success or failure here will have repercussions on offshore grid developments in the other sea basins.
EU Member States must, therefore, work together to facilitate the construction of the North Sea offshore grid with the appropriate regulatory framework.
The North Sea grid received a major boost in 2010, when ten European Members States signed up a Memorandum of Understanding and committed themselves to identify and tackle barriers to coordinated grid development. In 2011, the European Commission launched the so-called European infrastructure package, identifying the North Sea Offshore Grid as a priority area for Projects of Common Interest (PCI).
However, results are still limited because of the lack of vision for offshore wind beyond 2020. 2030 renewable energy targets would help give wind developers and grid operators a longer-term perspective to plan investments. It’s important to be clear about future perspectives early on, because of the long lead times for developing offshore wind farms and, especially, grid infrastructure.
Are there still significant barriers regarding a truly European grid i.e. overcoming national borders?
There are some technical barriers to a truly European grid. And there are still important political steps to be made. It’s necessary to rapidly finalise the Internal Electricity Market, allowing electricity to be traded across Europe, taking into account the characteristics of our future electricity mix: flexibility.
Is the funding there to support further developments in wind energy in the EU? What more is needed and where should this come from – for example, public funding vs industry and the utilities?
The European Wind Initiative has an overall budget of EUR 6bn for the 2010 – 2020 decade, of which roughly 52 % should be covered by the industry, 17 % by Member States and 31 % by EU Institutions.
Over the first three years of implementation, about EUR 800 million of EU funds were provided to wind energy, but mainly through the 2009 European Energy Programme for Recovery (EEPR), a one-off initiative for offshore wind. This raises questions about the level of EU funding that will be available under the next multiannual financial framework.
For this reason, TPWind is working with the European Commission to ensure that EUR 1.3bn will be allocated to wind energy over the 2014 – 2020 period.
How can SETIS contribute to dialogue around wind energy?
The EU Joint Research Centre (JRC) is an excellent repository of technical know-how and plays a key role in the implementation of the SET-Plan in general and in the development of wind power in particular. The JRC is in charge of defining and monitoring SET-Plan’s key performance indicators (KPIs), together with industry and R&D community representatives. For this reason TPWind has been working closely with the JRC in the definition of EWI’s KPIs.
Moreover, SETIS, provides up-to-date information and analyses on energy technology innovation. SETIS and the JRC help to disseminate validated information on the development of renewables and wind energy. Awareness raising activities are essential to maintain political focus on the implementation of the SET-Plan, create ideal conditions for technology development and increasing social acceptance of renewables.