HUGE CUT IN EUROPEAN SUPPORT

Eleven wind projects have been selected for the 1994 round of the European Utilities Thermie Programme for energy demonstration and development projects. But funding has been halved compared with previous years. The article details the projects chosen.

For the third year running 11 wind projects have been selected for support under the European Union's Thermie programme for development of energy technology (see table). This year, though, the level of funding for wind has been almost halved, to some ECU 4.1 million from over ECU 8 million for each of the two previous years (Windpower Monthly, October 1992 and September 1993). Overall funding for renewables, however, increased to ECU 49.4 million from ECU 43.1 million in 1993, states the European Commission (EC).

The 1994 wind selections also differ from previous rounds in the relative obscurity of many of the project proposers. Of the 22 participating companies in the 11 projects, only three or four are major players in the wind business. Several are completely unknown. The EC points out, however, that its choice was limited. Of the 19 proposals put forward by the wind industry, only ten involved well known manufacturers, it says.

The 1994 round of Thermie asked for innovative wind projects with technical features aimed at reducing cost. Only one turbine per proposal was eligible. This is the last year of the programme, administered by the EU's Directorate General for Energy, DG XVII, since 1990. "The innovation should be related directly to the entire wind turbine or to substantial change in the design of its essential components," stated the call for proposals. The deadline for submissions was July 13, 1993. In 1992 and 1993, Thermie supported entire wind farms to demonstrate innovative technology, disseminate advances already achieved, and assist new techniques to the market place.

Of the 19 wind proposals submitted for Thermie 1994, as many as seven were found ineligible for support, either because the wind turbines put forward were commerical rather than innovative machines or because projects were still at the research and development stage and belonged more properly under the EU's Joule programme, administered by the Directorate General for Science, Research and Technology, DG XII.

Not one of the 11 projects received the full subsidy available. Thermie grants can be as much as 40% of the eligible costs of a project, but this year the EC is subsidising less than one third of the total cost of all wind projects selected, proportionately less than in previous years. Germany dominated the 1994 Thermie applications, with German companies represented as main proposers or co-proposers in nine projects. Companies from the UK were involved in six projects and companies from Spain in three. The other eight countries represented were each participating in no more than two applications. This geographical spread is also partly reflected in the final selections. German companies are involved in five projects and UK companies in three. France, Belgium Italy and the Netherlands are each represented in two projects and Spanish and Greek companies have one project each.

Two major projects

The two most costly projects of the 11 -- development of a gearless wind turbine by HMZ WindMaster and a 1 MW by Tacke -- also appear to be the most significant.The WindMaster has been under development for three years, says the company's Peter van Heukelom. He expects a 500 kW prototype to be installed next year. There are several reasons for doing without gears, he says. "It needs less components so the price can be lower; it will be easier to manufacture and it will be more reliable. We are have in mind machines operating in remote areas out in the open and offshore." The project partner is German generator manufacturer Siemens. "The key is getting the right generator. We are not just working with anybody on this, but with a very experienced partner," says Van Heukelom. So far the only wind turbine on the market without gears is the distinctive German Enercon turbine with its huge "collar" housing the generator. Heukelom says the WindMaster's generator will be much smaller and it will not look like the Enercon.

Tacke Windtechnik's prototype 1 MW is due for installation in France at Dunkirk in late 1995, with commercialisation of the design expected by 1996. The project is being developed with British wind consultancy Garrad Hassan, responsible for part of the engineering, and French carbon fibre blade manufacturer, Atout Vent. The third partner is Dunkirk's regional council, Concielle Regional Nord-Pas de Calais. It is not yet clear whether French environment agency, Agence de l'Environment et de la Maetrise de l'Energie (ADEMA), will also add its support. ADEMA has a joint fund for backing environmental projects with the state nuclear utility, Electricite de France. EdF is not known for its enthusiastic support of wind power, but has indicated that it likes the notion of being seen to be progressive. As well as the novelty of using carbon fibre blades for a large scale turbine, the machine is being designed to be extremely quiet and to have optimal grid compatibility. It will also have a relatively low rotational speed, partly to reduce noise but also to make it more pleasing to the eye.

Joule II Plus

Development of the Tacke blades is also being supported under a Joule II Plus grant of ECU 400,000. Some 20 projects have been awarded grants under this extra Joule programme, but details of the selections have not been released by DGXII. Official announcement of successful Joule II Plus applicants is due at this month's European Wind Energy Conference in Greece. The surprise "Plus" extension to the Joule programme was announced to the wind community in March last year.

Since 1990, Thermie has selected 44 wind projects and supported them with some ECU 28.7 million. Renewables spending under Thermie has now reached some ECU 184.1 million, according to the Commission. Total Thermie spending during 1990-94 has been ECU 707 million. The future survival of Thermie seems to be increasingly in doubt. Despite calls by Commission staff to have Thermie extended, Britain, Germany and France refuse to comply with the request. They contend that innovative energy projects will now be backed under the 4th Framework Programme of Research and Technology Development, when it is introduced (Windpower Monthly, July 1994).

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