Renewable Energy Research Yields Results in Europe

An exhibition and conference on renewable energy, financed by the European Commission, covered geothermal energy, ocean energy, concentrated solar thermal energy, solar photovoltaics (PV), and biomass. Several recent successful projects in renewable energy research were showcased.

In Europe, about 95,000 dwellings are heated by geothermal energy, which has the capacity to generate about 1000 MW of electric power; Europe is currently the world leader in this technology. The European test site is located in France and, after several exploratory actions, a scientific pilot plant is now being constructed in two phases (2001-2004 and 2004-2007). European ocean energy teams are developing devices that use tidal current effects or waves to produce energy; some producing 300 kWh each are being tested. The EU 237-ton Wave Dragon, the world’s first offshore wave energy converter producing power for the grid in Denmark, is moored in water and recuperating energy generated by ‘overtopping’ waves. In comparison with traditional hydroelectric power stations, this technology could be competitive. Plans to build and deploy power production units elsewhere in the EU are already under way. European consortia are taking the lead by developing new components and new concepts for concentrated solar thermal energy, which uses optical systems to generate heat from direct sunlight. One project uses mirrors to redirect the sun’s energy toward a ceramic receptor that heats air that, in turn, heats water. The vapor of the water then activates turbines that produce electricity. In the future, the size of solar power plants using central tower technology may vary from 10 MWh to 100 MWh, depending on the demand and on the land available. The first of two projects on photovoltaic electricity is called “Roll-to-Roll” photovoltaic modules, where silicon remains a key material in photovoltaic technology, and the other is an alternative to silicon project, where researchers have developed an efficient low-cost technology, using CIS to generate solar cell modules. Europe has substantial resources of biomass, in wood, agricultural residues and organic waste, all of which can be transformed into ethanol or used to produce hydrogen for fuel cells, and will decrease dependence on fossil fuels. The first of two projects on bioenergy technology is as an alternative to gasoline or converting biomass into ethanol (using the cellulose of plants and trees). The other is a biomass to bioelectricity project investigating the conversion of biomass into hydrogen to produce electricity in a fuel cell. For details on sources of funding, project coordinators, and countries involved in each of the above technologies, please refer to the release, the link to which follows.

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