July 07, 2010
Renewable Energy Capacity Growth In Europe

Hydro still accounts for over half of renewable energy in Europe.

In 2009, and in absolute terms, about 19.9% (608 TWh) of Europe's total electricity consumption (3042 TWh) came from renewable energy sources. Hydro power contributed with the largest share (11.6%), followed by wind (4.2%), biomass (3.5%), and solar (0.4%).

With regards to the new capacity constructed that same year (27.5 GW), among the renewable sources, 37.1% was wind power, 21% photovoltaics (PV), 2.1% biomass, 1.4% hydro and 0.4% concentrated solar power, whereas the rest were gas fired power stations (24%), coal fired power stations (8.7%), oil (2.1%), waste incineration (1.6%) and nuclear (1.6%) (see figure1).

Sounds like big growth for renewables, right? But since the wind does not always blow and the sun does not always shine (especially so far north where Europe is located) new wind and new solar together will generate less electricity than new natural gas alone.

As not all installed technologies operate continuously 24 hours a day, figure 2 shows the expected yearly energy output (TWh) from the new capacity. The new gas-fired electricity plants will deliver yearly 28 TWh, followed by wind and PV with 20 TWh and 5.6 TWh, respectively.

New coal-fired plants (at a third of natural gas's capacity with similar or higher load factors) will probably generate more power than solar but less than wind.

In order for renewables to supply 35-40% of European power by 2020 current growth rates would need to be maintained. My guess is that'll be hard to do. Growth rates imply compound growth. So larger amounts get installed each year. Well, does Europe have enough wind sites to scale up that far?

If current growth rates are maintained, in 2020 up to 1400 TWh of electricity could be generated from renewable sources, the report concludes. This would account for approximately 35-40% of overall electricity consumption in the EU, depending on the success of community policies on electricity efficiency, and would contribute significantly to the fulfilment of the 20% target for energy generation from renewables.

Europe is not well situated for solar. Also, the place is very densely populated and does not feature an area equivalent to America's windy plains states with high quality wind. So wind power is more expensive in Europe. If the Europeans really want to displace fossil fuels they need to make a much harder look at nuclear. France leads the way on that score, already getting most of their electric power from nuclear power plants.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2010 July 07 07:28 PM  Energy Electric Generators

Jim said at July 8, 2010 11:43 AM:

These guys seem to be doing it right:

"Wave energy developer Aquamarine Power unveils the design of its Oyster 2 wave energy converter which will be built in Scotland in summer 2010...."

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