Recovery fund cash for offshore wind -- EU funds for strategic projects

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Five offshore wind power projects have been awarded a combined EUR 500 million in European Union funding under a EUR 5 billion European package to aid economic recovery. The new funding comes from unspent money in the EU budget.

The investment package is targeting strategic goals such as energy security and includes EUR 3.5 billion awarded to energy projects. As well as offshore wind, two further energy industry sectors are benefiting from an infusion of public money: electricity and gas interconnection; and carbon capture and storage. The rest of the package goes to bringing the internet to rural areas and supporting agricultural communities.

The offshore wind funding is targeted at new large-scale demonstration projects and upscaling existing projects. All five selected projects are at a "reasonable state of development," says the European Commission, most have cross-border significance and are also located in relatively deep waters of up to 50 metres, relatively far from shore -- up to 100 kilometres. In the Baltic Sea, the German Baltic 1 project at 50 MW and the three Kriegers Flak projects, one each in German, Swedish and Danish waters, will receive EUR 150 million for a combined 1500 MW. The money is to help fund a joint connection to shore for all four projects.

The German Alpha Ventus and Bard Offshore 1 projects -- both off the island of Borkum in the North Sea and to be in construction this year -- will receive EUR 150 million to test a new generation of 6-7 MW turbines in deeper waters far from shore. At the moment, ten 5 MW turbines from two suppliers, Areva's Multibrid and Repower, are planned for Alpha Ventus, a joint utility demonstration project.

In Britain, plans for an offshore test centre off Aberdeen by Aberdeen Renewable Energy Group and Vattenfall received EUR 40 million, while in Belgium, EUR 10 million goes to C-Power's Thornton Bank project to apply experience gained from the deepwater Downvind project, which consists of two Repower turbines at Talisman's Energy's Beatrice oil field off the east coast of Scotland.

As well as the four offshore wind generating projects, EUR 150 million is to be channelled into developing an electricity network in the North Sea. The money will fund studies involving the UK, Netherlands, Germany, Ireland and Denmark into offshore modular grid development. The electricity and gas interconnection projects include the Baltic Sea and the Ireland to Wales interconnectors, which will benefit increased wind energy penetration in the Baltic rim countries and Ireland.

Smart investment

"The EU's recovery plan is all about smart investment -- a short-term stimulus targeted on long term goals," says Commission President José Manuel Barroso. "That is exactly what the Commission has adopted today," he adds, "to build a stronger Europe for the long term."

The European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) considers the funds for offshore wind as money well spent. EWEA's Christian Kjaer says it should allow large volumes of wind power to be integrated into the existing grid, lead to new research and development and speed up market deployment. Improving interconnection will not just help speed the development of offshore wind but also take electricity from all sources of generation. The resulting more efficient internal electricity market will benefit consumers by reducing costs, Kjaer says.

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