power, the number one renewable energy source in Europe at present,
accounts for 13% of EU electricity production. Apart from the development
of very small hydropower plants adapted to specific situations, wave
and tidal energy is now the most interesting research field.
Wind energy is in second place, with a total installed power approaching
4000 megawatts (MW). There are some very large sites, particularly along
the coasts of the North Sea and the Mediterranean. Intensive research
into aerodynamics and mechanics has enabled considerable technical progress
to be made and the cost of a kilowatt-hour has become very competitive.
The development of powerful wind power plants on offshore platforms
offers the prospect of a promising future for this sector.
Lastly, encouraged by the good results already achieved in plants all
over Europe, research is continuing with a view to improving still further
the operating performances of photovoltaic and thermal solar power.
One application which would seem to have a promising future is the more
systematic incorporation of collectors in buildings.
The Earth's heat
The geothermal energy potential under the ground is an interesting
source of heat in several European regions. As a result of a European
demonstration project, heat can be pumped to collective housing and
buildings in the small town of
Offshore wind farms
In Sweden the first offshore wind
farm was built in 1998 in the Baltic Sea not far from the island of
Gotland. The objective of this European demonstration project, on which
Denmark and the United Kingdom collaborated, is to illustrate the technological
and economic feasibility of this type of plant whose ability to supply
abundant and very cheap electricity should offset the high construction
In the protected regional park of Adamello (Italian Alps), a small demonstration
power plant supplies cheap energy locally without harming a very sensitive