Europe's North-South wind energy divide

EUROPE: Although countries in southern Europe are getting in on the megaproject act, it is still those to the north that appear more likely to build larger onshore wind developments

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Projects in northern Europe from the UK, Norway, Sweden and the Netherlands will dominate wind energy development in the western EU during 2011, including one giant scheme that will become Europe's biggest.

This is against a background of tighter financing constraints, according to a report by law firm Taylor Wessing. It said in November 2010 that venture capital funds and the private equity community had largely stopped early-stage funding for European renewables, although technologically mature and capital-efficient subsectors like onshore wind were attracting equity and debt finance more easily than less mature technologies such as offshore wind.

The report said the scarcity of pre-construction financing was driving consolidation among independent developers, and that governments needed to make a long-term commitment to the sector.

Scotland supreme

Mature markets such as Germany, Denmark, Spain and France, have virtually no large projects planned over the next two years. Countries such as the UK are playing 'catch-up', but the likelihood of large onshore development taking off needs to be seen in the context of ambitious offshore projects in 2011 in the North Sea.

Eight British schemes, all in Scotland, which hosts several of Europe's highest wind speed sites, are due to go ahead in 2011-12. UK onshore wind farms scheduled to come online over the same period total 1.95GW.

At 350MW, the biggest is Scottish and Southern Energy's £500 million (€590 million) Clyde project in South Lanarkshire, which should start generating electricity in 2012. It will deploy 152 Siemens 2.3MW turbines, capable of powering the equivalent of 320,000 homes, and will be Europe's largest onshore wind farm.

The next biggest is the Whitelee Extension in south-west Scotland, led by Scottish Power and Alstom. It features 69 3MW and six 1.74MW turbines and is being built in two phases. The existing Whitelee array is currently Europe's biggest, with 140 turbines and an installed capacity of 322MW.

The Griffin wind farm in northern Scotland, which was taken through planning by developer Green Power, is now being wholly built and operated by Scottish and Southern Energy. The 156MW scheme utilises 68 Siemens 2.3MW turbines.

Progress elsewhere

Meanwhile, Norway has ten schemes going ahead in 2011-12, the biggest of which is the 220MW Storheia in Sør-Trøndelag, in the centre of the country, led by Statkraft with Agder Energi.

Total Norwegian new build onshore for 2011 is projected to be nearly 1.4GW, but there are doubts about whether this might be an optimistic expectation. Neighbouring Sweden has 796MW due online over the next two years.

Of the Dutch schemes, the largest is the 145MW Windkoepel Nord in Flevoland, a region of reclaimed polder land just south of the Ijsslmeer, from Siemens and Westermeerwind. In all, new Dutch projects coming online in 2011 and 2012 are expected to total 423MW.

Greece, Portugal and Spain are spearheading southern European wind, with the Greek Skyros project on Skyros Island being the biggest, at 294MW. It is being built by the Eoliki Notiou Skyrou Consortium and is due online in 2011. Another big contributor to the Greek total of 1.25GW is Terna Energy's Aegean Gyaros Island project, which will come online in 2012 at 288MW.

The biggest Iberian project this year is in Portugal, the Douro Sul scheme at Viseu, a region of central Portugal. This Ventinveste wind farm will start generating 206MW during 2011.

Only two large projects from European wind giant Spain feature this year. Ampudia, in Palencia, from Esquilvent and Gamesa is a 141MW project, while Sierra de Arcos in Malaga, from LDV Sierra de Arcas, Endhol Group and Vestas Wind Systems, will feature 10 Vestas V100 turbines and generate 180MW.

To the north-east of Europe, Finland has two modest developments: the 135MW Metsälä, and Raippaluoto at 110MW, both in the west of the country and being developed by EPV Tuulivoima.

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