Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Quantum leap for wind energy in the EU

The news that Clipper Windpower is developing a 7.5 Megawatt wind turbine to power a proposed wind farm off the coast of London is BIG news for a variety of reasons. Most important of all, it shows that UK officials are serious about reducing its greenhouse emissions within its predetermined time frame; that they are determined to do it in large part with renewables; and that offshore wind figures to play a prominent role in those plans. (GW)

Clipper Windpower to build world's largest turbine

By David Ehrlich
October 8, 2007

Carpinteria, Calif.-based Clipper Windpower (LSE AIM: CWP) announced today that it plans to develop a 7.5 megawatt offshore turbine, putting it at the top of the list for turbine power, both on and offshore.

The company said a single 7.5 MW turbine could provide enough electricity for more than 5,500 homes.

Germany's Enercon holds the current turbine record, with a 6 MW model.

Clipper plans to develop its big turbine in Blyth, England, as part of a two year development dubbed the "Britannia Project." The U.K. government's One North East regional development agency is putting up £5 million for the project.

"The U.K. has the largest offshore market right now," Mary McCann-Gates, director of global communications at Clipper Windpower, told Cleantech.com.

McCann-Gates said Clipper is "contributing significantly" to the development, but would not disclose the size of its investment in the project.

The company, which already has an office in London, plans to set up shop adjacent to the government funded New and Renewable Energy Centre in Blyth, in northeast England, using the center's blade test and manufacturing facilities to construct a prototype turbine.

Check out the U.K.'s turbine testing center here >>

Blyth could end up becoming a hub for the company beyond just the development stage. "What we're looking at right now is possibly manufacturing in the U.K.," said McCann-Gates, noting that a decision would depend on how many orders for the new turbine they get in the country.

Six year old Clipper Windpower currently has a manufacturing plant in Ceder Rapids, Iowa.

The company, which trades on the Alternative Investments Market in London, lists Blackrock Investment Management, Dehlsen Associates, Fidelity, Lehman Brothers, and Landsdowne partners as significant shareholders.

Orders for turbines may not be a problem for the company, as the European Wind Energy Association has estimated that 5 gigawatts of the 60 GW predicted for 2010 will be coming from the offshore sector.

The U.K., which has three operating offshore wind farms, including a small one off Blyth pumping out 3.8 MW, has a number of offshore projects in the pipeline, including the world's largest.

The London Array, to be built by DONG Energy, Shell Wind Energy and E.On Renewables, is pegged at 1 gigawatt. Construction of the 341 turbine wind farm is expected to start in 2009.

The U.K. government has told utilities it wants them to get 10 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2010 and 20 percent by 2020.

Clipper, which has seen its shares fall by a third since June after a warning about problems with components for its Liberty turbines, got a 4.74 percent boost on today's news.

McCann-Gates said the warning was related to a supplier. "There was a component that a supplier had provided for the machine that was deficient," said McCann-Gates. "We've worked through the details of that with the supplier."

Other than affecting the scheduling of some of the turbines that were supposed to be deployed this year, she said the component problem won't affect the company going forward.

BP Alternative Energy has certainly put in a vote of confidence for the company, placing an order late last month for 120 of Clipper's 2.5 MW Liberty models, Clipper's first firm order to deliver turbines in 2009.

The 300 MW order is part of a wider 2006 agreement between the companies for Clipper to provide up to 2,250 MW of wind turbines for BP's U.S. wind farms.

The new 7.5 MW turbine, which would be three times larger than the company's current turbines, would be based on its Liberty turbine design. The U.K. government said Clipper's Blyth project is likely to create 25 engineering jobs in the area.

The U.K.'s business and enterprise secretary, John Hutton, said in a statement that "the U.K. is fast becoming a magnet for renewable energy investment."

He cited a recent report from Ernst & Young that showed that the U.K. has moved up from fifth to second in the world for attractiveness in new renewable investment.

"Behind this is the government's determination to bring down planning barriers and target support at marine and emerging renewables. By 2015 we expect to see a threefold increase in green energy feeding into the grid," he said.

Clipper, which is primarily a manufacturer of turbines, also has a development division, which could end up developing projects with the new turbine.

"Where it makes sense," said McCann-Gates. The division has not yet worked on any projects in Europe. It's portfolio currently totals over 6,500 MW in the U.S. and Latin America, with additional prospects in early stage development.


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