The European wind energy trade organization WindEurope has published a report unveiling what it believes to be the five key pillars of research and innovation for the European wind energy industry.
In a report published this week, WindEurope — formerly known as the European Wind Energy Association — highlighted the need for new study on research and innovation into wind energy, and identified five priorities: grid infrastructure and integration, operation and maintenance, industrialization for economies of scale and faster production, reducing costs in offshore wind, and exploring next generation technologies.
The need for intense and applied research and innovation is especially important in Europe, which is seeing its wind leadership slip away. According to the authors of the report, “As international competition increases, maintaining European technological leadership is key to preserving our competitive advantage in the sector.”
“As competition between technology providers is becoming fiercer in developed markets, high growth markets move to the developing world and European leadership is increasingly challenged, especially by Asian players,” warned Aidan Cronin, ETIPWind Chairman. “They are investing vast sums in wind power and storage related research and Europe needs to meet this challenge.”
On top of maintaining its leadership, increased research and innovation can lead to further cost reductions, and facilitate wind’s continued integration into the existing energy mix.
The report examines further its five key pillars of research and innovation. With the increasing role wind energy is playing in the global energy mix, turbine technology and the power grid must evolve alongside it, with research and innovation contributing to a better understanding of the interaction between the two. Similarly, improved operation and maintenance is vital to continue reducing costs and maintaining wind’s reliability and place among the larger energy players. This is only going to become more important, with an already impressive number of wind turbines currently in service, operations and maintenance will continue to be an important issue that needs to be addressed.
The industrialization of the wind industry is another key enabler to reducing the cost of wind power, and represents a natural step forward for the industry if it is to achieve economies of scale and better cooperation along the entire value chain.
“The wind power industry has developed at a very fast pace thanks to constant innovations driving its cost of energy down,” said Anders Vedel, CTO Turbines R&D, Vestas. “Industrialization will take the sector to the next level, thereby optimizing the whole value chain, providing faster products and services to the market and exploiting economies of scale and maintaining a strong supplier industry with state of the art technologies.”
Looking offshore, the authors of the report identify significantly reducing the cost of offshore wind as a means to becoming competitive with conventional generation by 2025. As such, the biggest hurdle must be dealt with — the current fixed cost of balance of plant, which includes substructures and foundations, site access, offshore grid infrastructure, assembly, and installation.
“Offshore wind energy is still a young industry — it took off 10-15 years ago and since then it has developed, grown and matured at a breath-taking pace,” explained Christina Aabo, Head of R&D, Dong Energy Wind. “Yet, there is still a lot of room for improvement and development, not least when it comes to industrializing the balance of plant, i.e. foundations and electrical systems.”
Finally, the report highlights the need for next generation technologies to be developed, based on a strong scientific grounding which will involve fundamental and pioneering research.
“In the medium to long term, wind power requires a strong scientific knowledge base to develop beyond its activities of today and tomorrow and maintain its competitive edge through technological leadership, added Peter Hauge Madsen, Head of Department, DTU Wind Energy. “Out-of-the-box technological advances can trigger breakthrough technologies that could create new opportunities for the wind energy sector.”
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