Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Portugal a renewable powerhouse

LISBOA, Portugal -- Portugal has significant national economic issues, but it is one of the most aggressive nations in the world in renewable energy.

And many of its power sources are ones being deployed or considered for Hawai`i.
The hills around the capitol of Lisboa (Lisbon) are festooned with modern wind generators, which spin alongside traditional ancient Portuguese grain-grinding windmills (moinho de vento).   

(Image: A traditional Portuguese windmill alongside a new wind generator west of Lisboa. Jan TenBruggencate photo.)

The nation has more than 4,000 megawatts (4 gigawatts) of wind power installed on land. (Europe as a whole just passed the 100 gigawatt of wind milestone. By comparison, the U.S. has about 48 gigawatts of installed wind.)
There is a WindFloat wind turbine spinning offshore, developed by Principle Power. It is fitted with a Vestas V80 2 megawatt wind turbine, and the stable platform is anchored to the seafloor

A seafloor wave energy device, WaveRoller , is deployed on the ocean floor off Peniche. It was designed and built by the Finnish firmAW-Energy Oy. Three 100-kilowatt units are operating.

Another wave energy device was installed at the Aguçadoura Wave Farm near Porto, but has been brought back to harbor for repairs to its bearings.  It uses a Scottish-designed Pelamiswave generator.

The Portuguese Alto Lindoso reservoir has an immense hydroelectric capacity of 630 megawatts, and there are 100 or so other hydroelectric plants in the country. The Portuguese utility Energias de Portugal is currently building six new hydro plants.

The nation has more than 140 megawatts of installed solar photovoltaic generation, including the 46-megawatt Amareleja array, one of the world’s largest.  

With all that, Portugal has a problem. While nearly half of its electricity comes from renewables, there are times at night when Portugal has more renewable power than it has demand.

A white paper for the European Commission notes that renewables have grown throughout Europe far faster than government planners anticipated. 

Planners have tried to address these oversupply issues in several ways. One is to find export markets for the power.

One of other solutions for Portugal is something called pumped storage. Pumped storage, which has been discussed in Hawai`i, involves pumping water uphill when power is plentiful, and then running it back down through hydroelectric generators when the power is needed.

Energias de Portugal is building a 192-megawatt pumped storage facility, Frades II, on the Cávado River in the north Portugal Braga region. It is one of several Energias de Portugal pumped storage facilities in the works. Another is a 240 megawatt facility on the Tua River, which flows into the Douro. 

Still another, although longer-term, solution to the night-time oversupply problem is electric vehicles. If that extra power could be used to charge electric cars at night, it could both reduce fossil fuel use and smooth out the power demand curve.

Of course, issues like a global economic crisis throw the best-laid plans into chaos. In the midst of its economic issues, the government of Portugal has blocked spending on new renewable energy projects, with the exception of hydropower and co-generation. But it is a nation with a significant renewable energy program, one that is like to serve it well into the future.

© Jan TenBruggencate 2012


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