Renewable energy flourishing in Europe

The number of solar power photovoltaic systems in Europe will triple by 2010 due to efforts to fight climate change, the European Photovoltaic Industry Association announced yesterday.

“We would like to go forward to have, in 2010, an installed capacity in Europe in the range of 3 gigawatts, (up) from about 1 GW last year,” Winfried Hoffman, EPIA President told press.

Offshore wind farms will be increasingly popular

Europe is the world’s leader in renewable energy, with about half of all photovoltaic output produced there last year. Germany is the continent’s leader in generating energy from renewable sources, at approximately 5.8% of total energy production, and generates about 0.5% of its electricity from photovoltaic systems. Clearly, there is still much ground to cover to meet the EU target of 20% of energy generated from renewable sources by 2020.

Meanwhile, Dutch researchers are capitalising on the country’s windy climate by investing in wind turbines – out at sea. A new wind farm is being constructed so far offshore that it is barely visible on the horizon, hoping to harness the higher wind speeds out at sea while at the same time minimising the visual impact of the turbines.

Opposition to wind farms due to noise or for aesthetic reasons can often prevent their construction on land, so offshore building is expected to become increasingly popular. Engineering director Van Hemert commented that “Most campaigns against turbines are based around the noise and the visual impact, and these have been reduced by going offshore. It is more expensive to do it here than to do it on land, but we have all agreed we don’t have enough space on land.”

The park, which is expected to begin feeding into the national grid this month, will deliver 120 million kilowatt hours, enough to provide 35,000 homes with sustainable energy.

With the problems caused by an increasing interest in the use of biofuel crops (see here and here) to meet renewable energy targets, it is heartening to see progress being made in the use of sources such as solar and wind power. Wind energy is one of the cheapest of the new renewables, competitive with new clean coal fired power stations and cheaper than nuclear power.

Sources include: Thoughts on global warming, European Photovoltaic Industry Association; Reuters; Offshore Wind Energy Network

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