22 April 2010

Green Energy Rush Hit by Headwinds

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A phalanx of sleek white windmills, rising nearly 400 feet out of the North Sea, is just the start of one of the world's most audacious green-energy programs.

The turbines are part of a project expected to be the world's largest offshore wind farm when it is completed later this year. But only for a while, because it's a prelude to something much bigger. In a few years, its developer, Swedish energy company Vattenfall AB, plans to start a new project farther offshore, in deeper waters, with turbines as tall as London's 580-foot Gherkin skyscraper.

Just one problem: Vattenfall has no idea how it's going to build it. "The equipment we need to operate in such rough waters doesn't exist yet," says Ole Bigum Nielsen, the project manager.

Europe is making a huge bet on wind energy. Because there is little room in its crowded countryside for sprawling wind-tower complexes, planners are increasingly looking to the sea. Europe's current 2,000 megawatts of offshore generating capacity will grow at least 40,000 megawatts by 2020, enough to power more than 25 million households, the European Wind Energy Association predicts.

Britain is making the biggest wind wager. By offering generous incentives, the U.K. already has built more offshore wind power than any other nation. Now it is planning a wave of vast new wind farms, in some of Europe's stormiest waters.

(The Wall Street Journal)

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