Brussels, Belgium [RenewableEnergyAccess.com] The European power network was the key topic of conversation last week during the two-day policy conference, Large Scale Integration of Wind Energy. Held in Brussels, more than 250 delegates from the European Union (EU) were in attendance to discuss the need to modernize the grid, increase interconnection between networks and adapt the grid to new technologies such as wind energy.Organized by the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA), the European Association of Transmission System Operators (ETSO) and the European Commission, the issues of full ownership separation of production and transmission and a possible single European energy regulator to coordinate and regulate supply were also brought up. According to Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs, wind energy growth over the past 35 years in terms of turbine size and power output has increased in Europe one hundredfold since the first turbines. The 25 countries that make up the EU currently have a share of almost 3%, which is equivalent to the total consumption of Portugal and Denmark, he said. “Europe’s dominant position has been challenged by other countries with significant expansion in Asia and America. I am pleased about this; but it’s very clear that Europe should remain the leader. Therefore, political and technological challenges need to be addressed,” said Piebalgs. “We should concentrate on offshore wind power and more efficient integration into the European transmission and distribution grid networks. We will use Intelligent Energy for Europe and TEN-Energy programs, as well as the seventh Framework research program to support community projects,” Piebalgs added. Member of the European Parliament, Claude Turmes highlighted a vision of transforming the North Sea from an oil and gas resource to a wind and marine energy resource. “We are at a moment in history where we must decide where to go. The answer is to phase in wind energy, biomass and cogeneration while being energy efficient. Wind and biomass are major investments for the next 15 to 20 years. This is the reason why we need to address the challenges of grid integration,” said Turmes. Taking grid integration to the next level, Eddie O’Connor, CEO Airtricity Ireland, shared his vision of a European Supergrid, a major international offshore project based on a high voltage sub-sea transmission network. The Supergrid would take advantage of the extensive wind resource in the Baltic Sea, North Sea, Irish Sea, English Channel, the Bay of Biscay and the Mediterranean. “Offshore wind energy is key if we want wind power to supply a quarter of European electricity within the next two decades. It would act as an interconnector between national markets and will mean greater competition, lower prices and security of supply. If we build sufficient transmission systems, nothing can prevent integration of large amounts of wind into the network,” O’Connor added. In order to realize these visions however, closer cooperation is needed between wind industry and utilities, systems analysts, grid operators and decision makers, said Daniel Dobbeni, President of the European Association of Transmission Systems Operators. “We need a European approach to tackle the obstacles to integrate renewable energy sources into the network. It is the duty of the operators to support energy changes. The main challenges to large-scale integration are first of all better interconnectors and cross-border trade, because the priority is to tackle the lack of compatibility between European systems. Other challenges are to increase market competition as well as expansion of the grid, namely to include offshore wind farms. We also need subsidies to connect renewable energy sources to the grid,” stated Dobbeni. Other representatives from European operators raised the issue of requirements for good grid integration. They called for better European harmonization of grid codes, while also respecting local specificities. Speaking on behalf of the wind industry, Christian Kjaer, EWEA CEO, pointed out that improving grid infrastructure is necessary to making markets competitive. According to EWEA, significant investments in the transmission network are crucial to improving the functioning of the European internal electricity market. In addition, electricity networks of the future must be better connected and reshaped in order to be adapted to new technological, economic, environmental and political realities. “Wind energy will be able to compete on costs in the very near future, but to prove it we need markets to function. The infrastructure is a crucial element in creating real, fair and undistorted EU-wide competition,” said Kjaer. Manufacturers and developers present at the conference also pointed out the necessity to adapt general technical requirements to integrate wind energy into the network. Ensuring fair access to the network and improving forecast lead times were two additional elements the wind industry analyzed as essential to enabling large-scale integration.