Renewables enjoy spring surge of superlatives

The arrival of nature’s season of renewal in the northern hemisphere has been greeted with a burst of timely announcements of renewable energy schemes around the world, many of them claiming to be bigger and better than anything before.

As if determined to become the symbol of 21st century technology, the wind turbine continues to extend its wingspan. Vestas, the dominant producer of offshore turbines, has revealed plans for a monster blade, the first to be designed specifically for the challenging European North Sea environment.

The 164 meter diameter of the new turbine will be greater than the span of the popular London Eye Ferris wheel. If ready for production in 2015 as planned, the V164-7.0 MW model will tower over the current largest turbine made by the German company, Enercon.

Vestas has hinted that the new turbine will be built in a UK coastal location, a prize for which Scotland may bid aggressively. With an election of the Scottish Parliament looming on May 5th, the parties have been burnishing their green credentials.

The Scottish National Party, the major presence in the outgoing Parliament, is taking its commitment to renewable energy to the limit. The SNP manifesto published this week promises: “Scotland will remain a big exporter of electricity and we will also generate 100% of our electricity needs from renewable power.”

Caught up by its own momentum, the manifesto further reassures voters (and foreign investors such as Vestas): “there is, of course, no upper limit to our ambition.”

On the other side of the world, a country traditionally more comfortable with business-as-usual fossil fuel consumption, has sprung a surprise by joining the trend of record-breaking plans for renewables. Australian prime minister, Julia Gillard, fired the starting pistol for the largest solar project in the southern hemisphere.

The Kogan Creek Solar Boost project in Queensland has the unusual purpose of boosting the output of a massive coal-fired power station.

Meanwhile, China had only to glance towards this week’s 2011 Auto Shanghai exhibition to unleash the superlatives that underpin its credentials for clean energy. Supported by initial investment of $15 billion, the Chinese aim to be the world’s leading producer of electric cars by 2020.

Visitors to Shanghai were left in little doubt that production of electric vehicles is about to get into a stride that will leave the rest of the world in its slipstream.

Despite Congressional aversion to a response to climate change, the US renewable industry can still pack a punch on the global stage. Instead of a giant turbine, Duke Energy announced plans for the world’s largest battery.

The Notrees Windpower Project in Texas is an ingenious scheme for storing energy produced in strong winds to compensate for periods when nature opts for still life.


this article was first published in the OneWorld section of Yahoo World News