Portugal powers ahead as wind champion
Thursday March 2, 2006
Portugal signalled the launch of one of Europe's biggest wind power projects yesterday - a move that will supply enough electricity for 750,000 homes.
The contract is the equivalent to a quarter of all the wind power installed in the European Union last year. It will help cement the growing reputation of Portugal - a country importing 86% of its energy needs - as a renewable energy champion. This year, it has already approved the building of the world's largest solar plant.
The new wind project will rank Portugal alongside Denmark and Spain as the European countries with the highest proportion of wind energy in the national grid. It will more than double wind power capacity in Portugal.
The winning consortium will be asked to erect about 500 turbines at various locations. "This is definitely one of the biggest tenders we've seen [in Europe]," Christian Kjaer, policy director at the Brussels-based European Wind Energy Association, told Reuters news agency. "We've seen those [auctions] more in the United States and Canada."
Half a dozen consortiums featuring some of Europe's biggest power companies were expected to have lodged their bids for the two-phase 1,500-megawatt project by last night's deadline. The winner is expected to be announced during the summer.
Portugal's Socialist government also aims to create 1,600 jobs by allocating €900m (£613m) for turbine equipment manufacturing.
With a 520-mile coastline, often battered by Atlantic gales, Portugal is well-placed to take advantage of wind power.
Last year, the country increased its wind power target for 2010 from 3,750 to 4,400MW. Lisbon is looking to wind to help meet its goals under the Kyoto protocol on curbing greenhouse gas emissions.
The country's emissions surged almost 37% from 1990 to 2003 - the third-highest increase in the world. One of the EU's poorer countries has, however, already shown signs of leading Europe in renewable energy.
Its energy plans range from the world's first commercial wave farm to putting a hydroelectric dam on its last big undammed river, the Sabor. The government set aside a €2.5bn renewable energy war chest last year.
It recently granted a licence for the world's biggest solar energy plant, which will be able to produce enough electricity to power 21,000 homes for the southern town of Moura.
The 62MW plant will use 350,000 solar panels spread over an area the size of 150 football pitches. It will be 12 times the size of the biggest solar power plant currently in operation near Leipzig, Germany.
A wave power plant is also being established near the northern town of Povoa de Varzim. Using sausage-shaped floating generators made by a Scottish company to lap up energy from the Atlantic, it is due to generate sufficient power by the end of this year to supply 1,200 homes.
Some energy experts predict that Portugal could eventually produce 20% of its needs from the sea.
The global wind power market increased by 43% last year. The total capacity now stands at 59,322MW. This is a fraction of the total electricity supply, but the figure is rapidly growing. The countries with the highest total installed capaci