Funding success for Ireland and France

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Twenty projects destined to add 167 MW to Europe's wind power capacity have been selected for support under the European Union's 1997 round of wind funding under its Thermie programme for demonstration of energy technologies. Just over ECU 12.3 million will flow from the European public purse to the wind project developers. Support is restricted, however, by "budgetary constraints," to five units in any one wind farm, or up to 2.5 MW of installed capacity -- whichever limit is reached first.

Ireland was the big winner in 1997 (table), with four projects amounting to 13.5 MW securing Thermie support of just under ECU 3 million. In relation to the country's modest size, this was a high score. Inge Buckley, Dublin agent for Danish Vestas, is the chief facilitator of this flow of European funds into Irish projects. As well as winning support for three of the four Irish projects in this round of Thermie, she was also successful with one project in the previous round. All use Vestas units.

Two of the Thermie contracted Vestas projects -- Cronalacht and Kilronan -- are already operational. And at Anarget in Donegal, construction is soon to begin on three Vestas 660 kW turbines on the site of a hydropower plant. The aim of this 1995 Thermie grant is to demonstrate how the 2 MW wind scheme can operate in conjunction with hydro, despite output being constrained by the size of the common power line. A hybrid control will switch water flows to a small reservoir during periods of peak wind generation, explains Paul Brazil from Energy Control Systems. His company, which develops hydro stations, moved into the wind energy business after realising that hydro cannot compete against wind, he says. Energy Control Systems is building the project with fellow Irish company Saporito.

Of the two remaining Irish proposals in the 1997 round of Thermie, one is for four Vestas 660 MW turbines destined for Spiddal in Connemara, County Galway. The 2.6 MW project is a collaboration between Galway company Fuinneamh Gaoithe Teoranta, Vestas and Brussels based consultancy Euroscan. The funding objective is to look for reductions in installed capacity costs and operating costs. The remaining 1997 Thermie award for Ireland aims to demonstrate the operation of the latest generation of large wind turbines under Irish conditions. Two 1 MW turbines are being built by Dublin Dry Docks in partnership with German shipbuilder Husumer Schiffswerft.

Innovation sought

On Ireland's heels in the 1997 Thermie stakes comes France, also with four projects chosen for support, though the total capacity and amount of support is lower than for Ireland's clutch of projects, at 5.2 MW and just over ECU 2.2 million for the French four. Only two of the French projects are being built on mainland France, with the islands of Corsica in the Mediterranean and La Desirade in the Caribbean also to benefit from EU spending.

The remaining 12 of the 20 projects are spread across nine countries, though most project partners come from just six countries: Denmark, Germany, France, UK, the Netherlands and Ireland.

The aim of the 1997 Thermie was to encourage reduction of wind power costs through innovative design of both wind farms and of single turbines, with "more recent and larger sizes" preferred. The call for proposals, made in 1996 with a deadline of January 31, 1997, also included a category for small wind turbines of "innovative design" for household or agricultural use.

From the European Commission's Directorate for Energy, DG XVII, Alexandros Kotronaros draws attention to four turbines of innovative design to have won Thermie funding. "Two innovative gearless wind turbines of 750 kW in France and 600 kW in the Netherlands were supported, together with two different 1 MW wind turbines, one in Sweden and one in Ireland," he points out.

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