Wind Energy

AuthorEuropean Union Publications Office, 2006

Page 50

Overview: Major Fields of Research and Key Nations Involved

Wind Energy
R&D Areas Multi-Mega-Watt Offshore; next generation technology
State of Commercialisation Competitive with new coal, oil and open-cycle turbine power plants
Key Nations US, Japan, Germany
Expected contributions to EU energy policy targets The EWEA68 projects that 75 000 MW of wind power could be installed by 2010, of which 10 000 MW would be offshore
EC policy backing RES-E Directive; national feed-in tariffs
Key Member States Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark (accounting for nearly 70% of Member State wind energy RTD funding)

By the end of 2004, the capacity of wind energy systems installed globally had reached almost 48 000 MW. Europe accounts for 72% of total installed capacity and for 73% of market growth during 2004. Other regions are beginning to emerge as substantial markets for the wind industry69.

Wind energy offers a completely clean form of energy production. Wind turbines have become a mature state-of-the-art technology during the last decade, and wind farms are operating actively all across Europe. One of the key technology developments has been the size of wind turbines that has gradually increased, allowing a decrease in the production cost per kWh.


Still, RTD activities should aim to achieve further cost reductions in order to remain competitive against other emerging technologies70.

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Research Objectives in the EC, Member States and Third Countries

Wind energy research has continuously received the support of the European Union through its Framework Programmes. Many of the success stories in this field can be attributed to support by the EC. This started with several small-scale onshore projects in the 1980s, at the time far from commercialisation, and this was repeated later on with offshore in the late-'80s. The next steps were wind farms and upscaling. The EC-supported projects were always ahead of the market and many of them became commercially successful. Currently, there are about 30 projects in progress, funded under FP571 and FP6. The identification of needs for further research in the field as well as priority setting is carried out in close collaboration with the Programme Committee, Member States and other stakeholders.

The current objectives of EC RTD as expressed in FP6 are72:

Innovative materials, modelling and designs for future wind energy converters

Development of lightweight, reliable and efficient wind turbine components from blade tip to foundations, including standardisation and certification.

Design and development of large >5 MW turbines

Advancement of drive trains and controls of large turbines, optimisation of turbine size and installation costs.

Output forecasting for multi-MW offshore wind and wave energy installations

Assessing and predicting power output for offshore wind and wave energy installations, including economic simulations to minimise investment risks.

Advisory groups73 to the Commission assessed RTD needs and requirements for more coordinated research in different fields of energy. With regard to wind energy, both groups stressed the necessity of a unified European approach to keep Europe competitive. The development of offshore wind technology and fourth-generation turbines, amongst other more comprehensive issues, is foreseen as priority areas of research.

Furthermore it is recommended that, since the wind energy industry's efforts are short-term activities, public research at EU and Member State level should focus on medium to long term RTD to maintain Europe's leadership and the momentum of wind technology.

An outstanding example of targeted coordination and collaboration at different levels, with the aim of helping Europe harvest the full economic, societal and environmental benefits of wind power is the Wind Energy Thematic Network project.

The Wind Energy Thematic Network was launched to ensure that EU-funded wind energy RTD meets the needs of the European wind industry. Over 300 experts from the sector, including participants from industry and research bodies, have established the network with the aim of:

* Promoting information exchanges and networking

* Evaluating RTD requirements to maintain EU leadership; and Union strategy

* Contributing to the EC Communication "A European Union strategy for sustainable development".

The major results of the network are:

* The provision of a Strategic Research Agenda for the wind energy sector

* The proposal for a European Technology Platform for Wind Energy; and aims to develop

* The proposal for the UPWIND project (now accepted) which aims to develop the next-generation wind energy system.

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European research is focusing explicitly on upcoming technologies (offshore and next- generation turbines). These issues are commonly addressed by major Member States. Onshore research, which could cover issues such as mapping potential areas in mountainous regions or micro-siting in complex terrain, is of minor interest, at least for the time being.

In terms of technology development the research priorities set by EC and main Member States such as Germany74, Denmark75 and the Netherlands are extremely coherent. As these countries have already exploited major parts of their onshore wind potential, they are now shifting their focus mainly to off-shore applications. Special attention is placed on resource estimation, the development of robust, low-maintenance offshore turbines and the research of wind farm level storage systems76.

The US wind energy multi-year programme plan77 envisages three development paths - Land-based Electricity Path, Offshore Electricity Path and Emerging Applications Path - all of them managed through very specific cost-reduction goals and time frames. R&D progress is being measured against a defined reference turbine configuration. Compared with European priorities, the US is adopting a different focus on wind energy RTD by stressing land-based activities to exploit the potential for wind energy of lower wind sites but close to consumer markets78.

Due to Japan's natural conditions such as low wind speeds in many easily accessible areas and counter-cyclical seasonal variation in wind speed with peak demand, RTD funding follows yet another approach. R&D on wind turbine technology has been terminated79. Priority areas are site selection, control technologies, system reliability and the establishment of large-scale wind power generation systems, as well as transmission network stabilisation.

Wind energy systems are increasingly deployed in emerging countries and RTD is playing a growing role within research portfolios for renewable energy. For example, India achieved a share of 10% of worldwide installed capacity in 2004. Collaboration between the EU and India - amongst other things through joint ventures - features in the EU-India Wind Energy Network project, which aims to facilitate partnerships among wind energy actors in Europe and India, as well as enable knowhow and information exchange on technical issues such as wind forecasting, grid integration, machine and component design.

Although there are still technical RTD challenges to overcome in the context of efficiency increase, the focus of research seems to be directed much more by factors such as natural endowment or existing possibilities and constraints on deploying wind energy systems than by future technological requirements.

Funding for Wind Energy Research

The EC has set its priorities in FP6 on large-size wind turbines which receive over 50% of total funding. The average funding per project has increased significantly from FP5 to FP680. The main reason for this increase in average project size is not due to a higher overall funding for wind technology but rather to the two FP6 IPs "DOWNWIND" (deepwater offshore wind farms) and "UPWIND" (next generation systems), which together receive roughly two-thirds of total funding. Both projects cover a broad range of technical and enabling issues that had been investigated separately in previous Framework Programmes.

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Research Funded at EU Country Level

The RTD budgets of the three Member States of Germany81, Denmark and the Netherlands accounted for two-thirds of average annual wind energy RTD funding by the EU 15 in 2000-2004. As a result of different funding schemes in Member States - fixed annual budget in Germany, varying budgets in Denmark and the Netherlands depending on the quality of submitted project proposals - the yearly RTD funding of in wind energy varies.

Germany's level of funding is growing: euros 12.1M (2004),euros 16.1M (2005),euros 16.7M (2006). Over the last few years (2001-2004), wind energy has had a share of about 20% of the renewable RTD budget. Denmark's average funding in 2000-2004 was euros 7.8 M per year. In the Netherlands wind energy receives the third-highest level of funding behind solar PV and biomass. The average annual funding over the period 2000-2004 was euros 11 M per year.

Research Funded at Third Country Level

Globally, the US has the highest single budget for RTD on wind energy. However, when compared to the overall European contribution, Europe is still very much ahead in terms of funding levels.

The US level of funding is euros 33.4 M (2004), euros 34.3 M (2005), euros 37.2 M (2006)82.

The wind programme is organised around two areas and the funding is roughly allocated to the topics as follows:

* Increasing the viability of wind energy - developing new cost-effective technology for deployment in less-energetic wind regimes (28%); developing cost-effective distributed and small scale technology (6%) and supporting and testing research (39%).

* Increasing the deployment of wind energy - providing supporting research in power systems integration (8%), technology acceptance (9%), systems engineering, communication and analytical support (9%).

In Japan the level of funding for RTD in wind energy systems has decreased over the last couple of years. In 2004 the budget83 was euros 9.9 M, out of which 71% was distributed to wind power stabilisation development and system integration and 29% to field test projects. The RTD budget for wind energy accounts for roughly 5% of the total renewable RTD budget.

In some emerging countries like India the wind energy sector registered impressive growth though RTD support is still very limited.


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Evaluation and Conclusions
Technology Focus

The table below describes the funding allocation of the EC, the US, Japan and the largest funding Member States Germany, the Netherlands and Denmark - with respect to budget priorities set for specific technology paths.


The European research is focusing explicitly on upcoming and upscaled wind energy systems such as offshore wind farms and next-generation turbines, as well as on related issues like grid connection. The EC objectives are commonly pursued by major Member States like Denmark, Germany, etc. So far onshore research, which could cover issues such as mapping potential areas in mountainous regions or micro-siting in complex terrain, has been pursued only to a very limited extent. In FP6, research has a short to medium term perspective. In contrast, several Member States' RTD programmes are responding to industry's priorities, reorienting to short term research.

In contrast, the US strategy aims to develop turbine designs that are well suited to low wind regimes in order to exploit the potential for wind energy at lower wind sites close to consumer markets. In Japan technological research as such is only pursued in the context of grid integration.


Over the past decade the wind energy area in Europe has evolved into a strong and competitive sector. The European funding budget in the period 2000-2004 in this area was euros 57.7M compared with euros 32.1 M for the US and euros7.4M for Japan. Although the US has the highest single budget for RTD in wind energy, in terms of public funding levels Europe is still ahead of third countries. The difference in absolute annual funding between Europe and the US has diminished over the last 10 years from euros 46 M to euros 17 M, mainly due to a significant reduction in German funding.

Both in Europe and the US roughly 17% of the renewable RTD budget is given over to wind energy research, whereas the figure for Japan is only 5%.

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Research and Technology Development

As EC plus major Member State funding accounts for circa 80% of European funding on wind energy, its focus on a few prospective technologies does not leave much room to support other RTD needs in the sector. Whether this approach is as efficient as expected can only be decided after a thorough evaluation. Especially with respect to the new Member States and their needs to develop a sustainable energy pathway, onshore research should not be neglected. Furthermore, it is doubtful if the issue of grid connection needs to be addressed in almost every project. Redesigning the European grid is not the sole concern of wind energy, but the responsibility of the electricity sector as a whole. Grid issues should become a more distinct area of research, especially in the present context where distributed generation is becoming more and more part of the European energy system.

Collaboration between Europe and third countries is mainly through working groups under the IEA Implementing Agreement: there is also considerable collaboration and information exchange at an academic level in the more basic science areas (e.g. aerodynamics). Because of company property rights and associated competitive issues, no real collaboration exists in actual machine equipment development.


[68] - EWEA n.d.: Future Prospects For Wind Power Markets

[69] - GWEC: Wind Force 12, p. 6

[70] - EWEA 2005, p. 2f

[71] -EC 2005, p. 7

[72] - For details on the core of EC RTD areas in the field of wind energy, please refer to Annex V.1

[73] - European Energy Research Area Working Group (ERAWOG), Strategic Working Group (SWOG)

[74] - Compare DEWI Magazin Nr. 27, August 2005

[75] - Danish Energy Authority 2005

[76] - For summarised priorities of Member States in the field of Wind Energy, please refer to Annex V. 2

[77] - DoE (2004): Wind Energy Multi Year Program Plan

[78] - For details on US RTD Wind Program Structure, please refer to Annex V.3

[79] - IEA (2003): Energy Policies of IEA Countries. Japan 2003 Review, Paris

[80] - For details on EC funding to wind energy in FP5 and FP6, please refer to Annex V.4

[81] - Compare DEWI (2005), p. 5-10

[82] - DoE (2005): FY 2006 Budget-in-Brief

[83] - METI Energy White Paper, 2005

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