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Non-nuclear energy

Technology focus

Fission and radiation protection

July 2004 - Issue 2

Technology focus

FP6 projects

Integrated Project profile: RENEW

The RENEW integrated project (IP) aims at developing transport fuels that are both sustainable and efficient. The cost target is 70 cents/litre gasoline equivalent and the time frame is relatively short – the emphasis is placed on technologies that will be able to use the present distribution infrastructure.

Biomass is the key source due to its potential to limit CO2 emissions. Wood, straw and energy crops will be used to produce a broad spectrum of fuels including DME, methanol, ethanol, and new biomass-to-liquid (BTL) fuels.

RENEW will assess the different options by evaluating biomass-to-wheel process chains with regard to energy efficiency, overall emissions and the potential for world wide utilisation. All the process routes will also be assessed using Life Cycle Analysis.

The main research focus will be on biomass gasification, using both thermo-chemical and enzymatic routes, and the subsequent gas cleaning and treatment. Requirements for purity will be established to allow production, through a Fisher-Tropsch type process, of second generation biofuels, in particular BTL, with very low emission levels of GHG and other pollutants.

Two of the fuels will be produced at pilot-scale (DME and BTL) for use in extensive motor-tests by four leading European car manufacturers, VW, Volvo, DaimlerChrysler and Renault. BTL fuels will also be tested in new engines developed in the EU funded NICE project. Later on, an optimised fuel will be designed, produced and tested.

In due time, the comprehensive technological base developed within RENEW will make it possible to establish strategies and take decisions for large scale introduction of biomass-based affordable fuels for the European transport sector, which presently is 98% dependent on oil.

RENEW involves 31 partners, including 7 SMEs. The coordinator is Volkswagen AG, Germany.

Further information


Wim Sinke with his favourite technology
Wim Sinke with his favourite technology

“European companies will have to implement continuously the results of EC-funded photovoltaic (PV) research in order to be competitive on the world market,” says Mr. Wim Sinke, coordinator of the integrated project CRYSTAL CLEAR.

What are the research challenges that CRYSTAL CLEAR focuses on?
Crystalline silicon PV technology still has huge potential for improvement. There is a lot to be done. Our main objective is to reduce the module manufacturing costs by 60%. This is an important factor in making PV competitive for the end-user electricity markets. We also have to reduce the energy payback time – the time that the modules need to be in operation to produce the same amount of energy that was consumed during their manufacturing – in order to make PV even more effective as a sustainable source of energy. We aim at an energy pay-back time of two years, making PV a net producer of clean energy over more than 90% of its lifetime. Finally, we intend to enhance the applicability of PV modules so that they can be easily used for multiple purposes. This includes, for example, improving flexibility in manufacturing to adapt to customers’ needs and wishes.

CRYSTAL CLEAR is one of the largest renewable energy research projects in the history of the Sustainable Energy Systems programme. What effect could the €16 million injection to PV research have on the European PV industry?
Europe already has a well-established knowledge-base of crystalline silicon (cSi) PV, but so far research efforts were rather scattered and, therefore, probably less effective than they could have been. An Integrated Project (IP), such as CRYSTAL CLEAR, is an excellent tool to focus research in this field. It addresses the full range of problems from raw materials to the end product, instead of concentrating on separate issues. Research groups work together closely with companies with the aim of integrating rapidly the latest research results into industrial processes. Researchers also get immediate feed-back from their industrial counterparts. With this synergy, we will be able to gain from previous investments in research and make the important next steps in crystalline silicon PV, which will enable Europe to maintain its competitiveness on the world market.

Crystalline silicon PV currently has a market share of around 90%, but in the last couple of years some novel and promising technologies have emerged. Why is it worthwhile for Europe to invest in cSi?
We believe that crystalline silicon will remain a major PV technology for the next 20 years or even longer. The potential for improvement is enormous. In combination with proven quality and relatively high efficiencies, this makes cSi PV hard to beat. Other promising technologies, such as thin films solutions, are in the pipeline, but there is a worldwide trend to bring cSi technology to its limits by integrating existing and new knowledge, implementing advanced processing schemes and adapting module design to the requirements of large-scale manufacturing. Crystalline silicon technology is not second best, or a technology that should be replaced by something else as soon as possible. Undoubtedly, thin film will gain an important share of the market in the longer-term, but this will be on the basis of clear added value and not because we jump from one emerging technology to another. The industry appears to share this vision, including countries outside the EU. For example, Japanese manufacturers are making similar investments in cSi production capacity.

There are no partners from the New Member States in the project. Does that mean that the accession countries are lagging behind the EU- 15 in terms of PV-related research?

An Integrated Project with very ambitious goals like CRYSTAL CLEAR has to be very efficient, effective and lean. It is not a suitable forum to bring together a large number of partners with different backgrounds and experience. There are other instruments for that. The sixteen partners in CRYSTAL CLEAR all have an impressive track record in PV research, manufacturing and collaboration. Together, they can do this job.

Would that mean that there is no place for partners in CRYSTAL CLEAR from the accession countries?

As our work progresses, there is always a chance for new members to join CRYSTAL CLEAR, since, in IPs, it is possible to accept new partners as the project goes on. Obviously, this should be on the basis of additional needs, and not just to enlarge the consortium. Other initiatives may be more suitable for getting to know partners from New Member States and starting to develop collaboration.

More information:Project website (under construction)

Network of Excellence profile: NoE BIOENERGY

The Bioenergy Network of Excellence (NoE) was launched in January 2004. The NoE’s official title is ‘Overcoming barriers to bioenergy’ and its initial role will be to integrate the activities of its partner organisations to form a deep, durable and coordinated programme of bioenergy research. This coordinated programme will then be extended beyond the partnership to cover a wider range of activities and companies to establish eventually a permanent ‘Virtual Centre of Excellence’ in the field of bioenergy. This is the key challenge of the project.

Bioenergy chains
The use of bioenergy has to be increased significantly over the next decade or so to accomplish the goals of the EU and the Kyoto Protocol of reduced CO2 emissions. The NoE will support these goals through technology development and implementation, policy actions and the establishment of market strategies. The research and technology development (RTD) programme of the NoE will cover all processes, components and methods necessary for establishing successful “bioenergy chains” to produce heat, electricity and biofuels for the energy market, including:

  • planting and harvesting of biomass;
  • solid fuels from agricultural and forestry residues and organic waste components;
  • combustion, gasification and synthesis, pyrolysis, anaerobic digestion and fermentation of biomass feed stock;
  • production of liquid biofuels and hydrogen;
  • heat and power production;
  • socio-economic analysis of policies and market and environmental issues, including greenhouse gas balances.

To ensure the far-reaching and long-term impact of know-how within the NoE, a significant feature will be to spread excellence via a programme of dissemination activities to organisations outside the partnership, including industry, commerce, institutions, trade associations, governments and academia. The network is made up of eight of the leading European institutes involved in bioenergy-related activities and is coordinated by VTT Processes from Finland.

Further information


Sun power is heating up

Having demonstrated the feasibility of a power plant that directly harnesses solar heat, scientists are now trying to reduce the cost of this technology. The Commission-funded project INDITEP aims to increase the temperature of steam produced to enhance the efficiency of power generation.

The heat to generate steam for the production of power via steam turbines can come from a variety of sources: wood, coal, oil, gas or nuclear fission. Now EU researchers are using solar radiation to make steam directly for power production. At an experimental installation in Almeria, the engineers use parabolic trough technology to collect and focus the solar energy.

According to Mr Fernando Rueda Jimenez, an engineer at Iberdola Ingeneria Consultoria, and coordinator of the INDITEP project (Integration of DSG Technology for Electricity Production), the concept has now been proved and it offers considerable benefits for sustainable power generation. “A field of solar collectors can be seen as a traditional power plant where the fossil fuel is substituted by sunlight,” says Mr Rueda Jimenez. “A huge advantage of such a solution is that it completely eliminates carbon dioxide emissions and pollution. According to our calculations, using a 5 MW module, 10 000 tonnes of CO2 per year could be saved.”

Full steam ahead
In theory, producing electricity from solar energy is a straight forward process. As it is easy to demonstrate with a magnifying glass on a sunny day, direct solar radiation can be concentrated to produce a source of heat. On an industrial scale, a range of Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) technologies have been developed to provide medium- to high- temperature heat. This heat can be used to operate a conventional power cycle. Solar thermal power plants are already operating in California in the United States. In these installations, solar energy is used to heat up synthetic oil in the pipes of a closed loop system. The oil then boils water via a heat exchanger to produce steam. “What we do is replace the oil in the pipes with water and generate steam directly,” explains Mr Rueda Jimenez. This method, called Direct Steam Generation (DSG), simplifies the whole process and makes it cheaper.

However, there are numerous barriers to be overcome in order to make this technology less costly, more reliable and more competitive compared with conventional power generation.

“Strangely enough, all the problems we have found are connected to conventional technology used in the solar plants, and not to the novel solutions,” says Mr Rueda Jimenez. “For example, it took a while to find the best steam turbines, and select the ideal power circle. But in the end, the whole design has an overall efficiency that is worthwhile exploiting.”

Improved efficiency
The INDITEP project aims to reduce by 20% the current cost of electricity produced by concentrated solar power. The main objective is to develop advanced components to increase steam temperature from the current 400ºC to 500ºC. This will include modification of the steel pipes by improving the optical efficiency of their glass coating. Another task will be to modify the troughs to absorb more solar radiation. With these new components, the engineering design of a 5 MW precommercial power plant will be prepared and the building of a commercial-sized power plant is planned to start in 2005.

More information

Energy in 2030: renewables at stake

Planning for a sustainable energy future requires detailed foresight studies. The World Energy Technology and Climate Policy Outlook (WETO) positions Europe in a global context providing decisionmakers with easy-to-read energy scenarios. The study addresses energy, technology and environment issues up to 2030 and supports long-term European policymaking.

A reference case shows a doubling of energy consumption in the next 30 years and a continuing domination of fossil fuels. Developing countries would represent more than 50% of the world’s energy demand compared to less than 40% today.

Electricity production will grow steadily, at an average rate of 3% per year. Renewable electricity will increase in absolute terms from 3100 TWh in 2000 to 5900 TWh in 2030. Nevertheless, in relative terms, green electricity will decrease from 21% in 2000 to 17% in 2030, while the role of gas and coal in power generation will become more prominent. In the reference case, with no strong measures promoting renewables, both wind and solar electricity, for example, will increase by a factor of 25. In other words, in 2030, wind is expected to generate 544 TWh and the sun, essentially PV, will generate 50 TWh.

More information and copies

Wave Dragon

The Wave Dragon being lifted ready to float on the sea
The Wave Dragon being lifted ready to float on the sea

On 27 June 2003, the Wave Dragon, the first offshore wave energy converter in the world to generate power for public consumption, was switched on. After intensive months of construction and testing, the floating 237 tonne prototype, measuring 53 by 33 metres, is now producing 20 kW of power for the local grid in Denmark. Its output is accurately matching the predictions forecast by the academic project partners at Aalborg University and the Technical University of Munich.

The Wave Dragon was invented by Erik Friis-Madsen and is an overtopping device that ‘pumps’ ocean waves to a reservoir held above sea level. The water is then released through a number of turbines, which generates electricity. The test prototype is a 1:4.5 scale model of the full size prototype, which could generate 4-10 MW.

The invention was further developed by Wave Dragon ApS, an SME specifically formed for this purpose. Wave Dragon can be deployed in large flotillas or ‘parks’ wherever a sufficient wave climate and a water depth of more than 20 metres are found – typically parameters for the North Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. It has been estimated that this plant will produce electricity at about €0.11/kWh while, for the full-sized prototype, it is expected to fall to €0.04/kWh.

More information

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