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Europe’s first wind powered province touts renewables as key to recovery

Wind farm in Bergenland Austria

Fifteen years ago, residents of the province of Burgenland would have laughed if you told them their region would one day be exporting energy.

But since the late nineties, the easternmost area of Austria has rapidly scaled up its wind power capacity from zero to 481MW today, so that by the end of this year it expects to become an Energieautarkie, the German term for an energy independent country, company, or even person.

With a population of less than 300,000 people Burgenland’s power company, Energie Burgenland (EB), and private landowners have been able to install 286 turbines stretching as far as the eye can see. The fleet of large scale wind farms includes Europe’s largest wind energy development in Andau and two giant 7.5MW Enercon turbines in Potzneusiedl.

Now the region is touting itself as a poster boy for the low carbon economy, offering real life evidence that backing renewables is key to delivering economic growth – a theme that has unsurprisingly been prevalent at the annual European Wind Energy Association conference in Vienna this week.

Michael Gerbavsits, chief executive of EB, says the utility has invested €300m so far in wind energy, plus another €85m in a transformer to ensure the power can be carried easily around the region and beyond.Engineer builds wind turbine tower at Enercon factory in Austria

Over the next few years, EB will invest another €450m in renewable energy, ramping up wind capacity to reach 1GW by the end of 2014 and enabling Burgenland to export power and cut CO2 emissions by the equivalent of taking 615,000 cars of the roads.

The feat will be a significant step towards fulfilling Austria’s ambition of becoming Energieautarkie by 2050. Fuelled by a ban on nuclear that has been in place since the late 1970s, renewables already contributes 65 per cent to Austria’s electricity mix and nearly 31 per cent of the total energy mix, most of which comes from hydropower, with about five per cent from wind.

The government is taking a bottom up approach to green energy, urging each local government to develop their own renewables plan with a view to gradually weaning itself off fossil fuels and nuclear power imports over the coming years.

Werner Friedl, Mayor of the town of Zundorf, believes 1,000 green jobs will be created in the region on the back of the wind power boom, making a dent in Austria’s six per cent youth unemployment levels.

Enercon wind tower turbine factory Bergenland AustriaIn fact, the region’s commitment to wind energy, as well as its €9m investment to tackle youth unemployment is starting to pay off.

Germany’s Enercon has recently opened a €40m production plant in Zundorf, making concrete turbine towers for its “cash cow” E101- 3MW machines.

The factory already employs 120 people, and is ramping up operations in the early part of this year. It also has a nearby training facility for wind power apprentices and says it has made an effort to recruit local people into jobs, with most employees having to travel no more than 25 kilometers to reach the plant.

As well as tapping into local markets, Enercon hopes to use its fourth factory to reach the emerging Eastern and Central European wind power markets. Concrete towers could be floated on a barge up the Danube to Germany, or downstream to Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary, the company says.

Hans-Dieter Kettwig, Enercon’s managing director, has one message for countries where unemployment is currently at high levels – switch to renewables.

“For those trying to tackle youth unemployment, not only in Austria, you should look to Burgenland to see the benefits it can bring,” he says. “Wind creates value added and some countries in Southern Europe can be supported by introducing wind energy into the mix. If you have 60 per cent youth unemployment, you should switch to a more regenerative energy source.”

It is a message echoed across Europe. Speaking at the opening plenary of the EWEA conference this week, MEP Anna Podimata, vice president of the European Parliament, stressed the role of renewables as a solution to the Eurozone crisis and a means of tackling unemployment, which currently stands at 11 per cent across Europe.

“Renewables should and could play a key role in a sustainably grown and competitive European Union,” she told delegates. “Despite the prices, renewables remains one of the most dynamic sectors in all major indicators.”

The wind industry is keen for the EU to set a renewable energy target for 2030, that would provide manufacturers and developers with certainty about the future of their businesses beyond 2020.

Although some member states have so far refused to commit to a target, Podimata told delegates she saw no reason why a 45 cent target would not prove both “realistic and feasible”.

“After three years of crisis there’s a growing consensus among decision makers that we need more Europe, but there is also a growing number of EU citizens questioning what kind of Europe,” she said.

“If we want to regain people’s confidence, then the answer is a Europe of growth and jobs, with prosperity for its citizens… That means a Europe of real economic and fiscal convergence of social and environmental sustainability and I strongly believe renewables has a key role to play in fulfilling all of these policy targets.”

This article first appeared on BusinessGreen


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Faroe Islands reveal the secrets of successful ‘negawatts’

sund 1It is 1pm on a Thursday in mid-November and about 40 people have crowded into Sund PowerPlant’s small control room on the Faroe Islands.

They are waiting for Finn Jakobsen, manager of distribution and production at SEV, the utility that owns Sund, who has his finger poised over a button that will instantly switch off 10 per cent of the islands’ energy supply.

He looks confident that everything will be OK, but he has also told his audience more than once where the fire exit is, in case they need to make a quick escape. Thankfully, the emergency exits will remain unused.

Instead, when Jakobsen finally hits the switch, the meter of engine number two drops to zero, and the frequency display shows a momentary dip. But there is no blackout, no alarm bell, no drama.

Why? Because less than a second after the engine went down, SEV’s new IT system sent a signal to three industrial businesses on the other side of the island, which automatically cut their energy demand when he hit the switch, rebalancing the grid frequency and allowing the lights to stay on.

On the Danish mainland, DONG Energy has up to 30 seconds to respond to a drop in demand before a blackout, but on the Faroe Islands, SEV has less than a second to respond.

The IT system is known as Power Hub, a virtual power station designed by Danish utility DONG Energy under the European Union’s Twenties R&D programme, which aims to find ways of integrating rising levels of intermittent wind energy onto the grid.

The Faroe Islands, a remote archipelago that is officially part of Denmark, is the perfect location for testing some of these emerging technologies. The outpost is planning to significantly increase its reliance on wind power as a means of reducing hefty oil import bills, and at the same time it is keen to tackle the fairly frequent power blackouts that continue to afflict the islands.

DONG Energy maintains utilities can significantly reduce their costs through the use of virtual power stations, such as Power Hub, as instead of building costly new fossil-fuelled power plants for back up, they are able to reduce peak power demands in a controlled manner.

These so-called “demand response” or “negawatt” models are not a new concept, having been succesfully pioneered in the US. But DONG hopes that Power Hub will add a new degree of flexibility to existing smart grid systems, integrating a range of distributed energy sources including solar panels and electric vehicles, while still enabling the automated reduction in power demand at peak times that defines all “negawatt” schemes.

So far it seems like the concept is working well on the Faroe Islands.

From SEV’s point of view, the three businesses signed up to the scheme use 10 per cent of the energy on the island, so persuading them to link up to PowerHub and agree to curb their demand at key times is far simpler and less costly than trying to get every home to join the trials through the use of advanced smart appliances.

Moreover, it seems that all three businesses are happy to sign up – they see it as an opportunity rather than a burden.

All three companies are part of the fishing industry, and despite running different operations, they are all in the convenient position of being able to drastically reduce their energy demand at a moment’s notice without impeding their operations.

For example, Bergfrost Cold Storage boasts a storage tunnel drilled into a mountain at the harbour side, which means it can lose power for 24 hours without causing damage to its frozen foods.

Hiddenfjord Salmon Farm, by contrast, can only operate for up to 15 minutes without power loss harming its fish. After 15-30 minutes, three to four million fish would be lost, costing the company a minimum of 20 million DKK (£2.2m). But SEV knows the constraints and the company maintains 10-15 minutes of controlled outage is far better than the prospect of emergency blackouts that can last for hours.

With every millisecond counting after an outage, rapid response is vital. Once the Power Hub has balanced out the grid by automatically reducing power demand from the participating businesses, SEV then has 15 minutes of downtime to power up another generation source, such as the hydropower stations dotted around the archipelago.

Hiddenfjord also has its own back-up generator that it is hoping to link up to the virtual power plant so it can sell energy back to SEV in an emergency, creating yet more flexibility on the grid.

But while the IT systems for PowerHub may be in place, DONG says it is still exploring the best way to reward those companies that agree to take part. Should they receive payments in return for their participation, or is the reduced likelihood of emergency blackouts incentive enough?

Anders Birke, lead IT architect at DONG Energy, maintains that if payments were to be offered they would probably be lower than existing demand response schemes in other countries, simply because the industries are not sacrificing profits by taking part in the scheme.

While Power Hub might work for a small community with vast amounts of wind power, is it really  feasible for more complex power grids?

Peter Vinter, DONG Energy’s system architect with overall responsibility for Power Hub, insisted the system could be easily adapted to other island communities. But again, he said the trick is to find those businesses that can reduce their energy demand without disrupting their operations and undermining their profitability.

For example, companies in a hot holiday destination like the Canary Islands, might be able to reduce their air conditioning energy use for half an hour at a time, without frustrating employees or tourists too much.

“We’ve started by taking our own medicine,” added Vinter. “Right now we’re integrating our own climate air conditioning system at our headquarters in Denmark to see how long we can interrupt service without impairing the comfort in the office.

“But it’s a very unique experience every time you visit an island to find out what are the pain points there in terms of increasing renewables, finding out what assets are available and how flexible they are.”

This article first appeared in BusinessGreen

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I am excited to find I can post videos and widgets on my WordPress blog using VodPod.

In celebration, I’ve posted one of my favourite videos from You Tube. Adam Buxton has worked smugness into Obama’s acceptance speech.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

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Sprouts and Other Widgets

Matt Yeomans said in his lecture: “Technology is worth nothing unless it is used creatively.”  Widgets are a goldmine of inspiration for the creative mind – techie or not.

What is a Sprout?

Most people think a sprout is a small green vegetable eaten at Christmas and a widget is something found at the bottom of a beer can.

But a widget is also an interactive, transferable application. You can embed it in a blog, social networking page or on a desktop and it changes when it’s updated by its moderator. And a Sprout is also one type of widget.

How could it be used?

Widgets are good for making mini presentations. Journalists could make a news story more engaging with a wigdet, which lets the reader navigate their way through the story.

Also, the reader could embed it in their blog or social networking page, so more people would be likely to read the story. As it changes automatically when it’s moderated, any updates come to the reader, which makes it easier for them to keep up to date.

It might look a bit like this:Vodpod videos no longer available.

Rich Cameron, Online Communication Director for Journalism Association of Community Colleges said: “Tools like […] Sprout Builder can make you look like a pro without having to be a code junkie. You just have to be a good journalist.”

Indeed, Sprout Builder is free and the application to make it uses little to no HTML, so anybody can use it.

How Else are Widgets Used?

Topshop uses a widget for marketing. It could, at least, increase traffic to their site and at most, boost sales.

The Topshop Daily Fix widget can be downloaded onto a desktop. Every day, a different item of clothing is marketed and the user only has to click the ‘buy’ button to be taken to the Topshop website, where they can purchase the item.

Topshop's Daily Fix Widget

Topshop's Daily Fix Widget

BBC Radio 1 also has a widget, called The Radio 1 Clock. It’s hosted on Spring Widgets and is a digital clock with each number represented by a photo. Each photo has a number in it so it can be used on the clock.

As Radio 1 are using it to promote an upcoming Foo Fighters gig, all the pictures are of the Foo Fighters.

Users can embed the clock in their site, but it’s more than just decorative. It’s also interactive because they can upload their own photos onto it.

The Radio 1 website said: “If you’re going to see Foo Fighters on tour take a picture whilst you’re at the gig and upload it (…) There are no prizes, just the chance to sit side by side with Dave and the band in the clock.”

Vodpod videos no longer available.

I’m interested to hear about any other innovative widgets on the web, so please let me know.

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Test Post

This is a test post.

It’s not a real post.


If it were a real post,

It’d be important.


This is a joke post.

Not for all you folk post.


It’s just a test post,

But some more will follow.







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