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Greece: is there a future for windpower?  

According to meteorology experts, Greek wind farms will need to provide 6,000 to 9,000 megawatts to meet EU-imposed renewable energy targets: would equal three-quarters of the the current generating capacity from all sources. Concerns over global warming.

Wind farms totalling between 6,000 and 9,000 megawatts – up to more than three-quarters of the country’s current generating capacity from all sources of energy – will have to be established if Greece is to meet its European Union emissions-cutting targets, according to meteorology experts.

Yiannis Agapitidis, the president of the country’s Centre for Renewable Energy Sources (CRES), and Dimitris Lalas, a former director of the Athens National Observatory, have told the Athens News that wind turbines will have to become a reality of the Greek landscape.

By 2010, some 20 percent of Greece’s electricity output will, according to EU law, need to be derived from renewable energy sources, an unrealistic expectation given the current figure of 12 percent.

Even more ambitious is the need for Greece to cover 18 percent of all its energy needs (including transport and heating) from renewables by 2020.

Agapitidis’ two-word reply to the question of the likelihood of the former target being met is indicative of the difficulties ahead: “No way.”

Ironically, he says, it may be more feasible for Greece to reach the harder 2020 target, which exists within a wider EU plan for renewables to cover 20 percent of the bloc’s overall energy needs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent relative to 1990 levels by the end of the next decade.

Output from the country’s hydroelectric plants is planned to increase only marginally during this period and photovoltaic technology – once vaunted in sun-rich Greece – is deemed unpopular due to its high cost and the lengthy bureaucratic procedure involved in securing permits.

In this context, says Agapitidis, it is unrealistic to expect some 3,000MW’s worth of wind farm projects granted initial permits by the Regulatory Authority for Energy to be converted into installed capacity within two years.

“The year 2010 is simply too near for these targets to materialise,” says Agapitidis. “The new targets [for 2020] are more ambitious but also more feasible. We are carefully planning the next steps. We have planned energy savings of approximately 9 percent by 2015, and we expect a lot more wind farms.

“There are around applications of 3,000MW that have the first permit but that have not been allowed the second permit because they are being challenged locally or because there is not enough capacity in the transmission network to accommodate them. It requires more infrastructure from DESMIE [the country’s transmission operator].”

Watch with space

A crucial step, says Agapitidis, will be the tabling in parliament of the spatial planning framework for renewable energy sources, which is more than a year overdue.

“It is very important because the high court finds grounds to support appeals against [renewables projects] because there is no framework,” he says. “Usually the appeals are against wind farms, but recently there has also been opposition to small hydro-plants and even solar energy projects.”

Rather than examining each case on its merits, Agapitidis says, the high court has been concluding that, in an absence of a spatial planning framework, it is impossible to determine with certainty whether the locations of the proposed sites are suitable.

There are, however, those who doubt whether the proposed spatial planning framework – for which Agapitidis’ CRES was an advising body – is adequate.

“From the beginning I have said that I am not in agreement with it because, as well as there being a number of areas that are problematic, the philosophy is wrong,” says Lalas. “It decides what are the primary areas for renewables. The main philosophy is that you have to be a little bit careful here and a little bit careful there, and that you have to leave a certain distance between wind turbines and villages.

“If you really want to make life simple, and hence accelerate the penetration of renewable energy sources, it is better to make clear rules and say exactly where you can and where you cannot put wind farms.”

He added: “It puts you through a procedure that is time consuming and open to question, and there are a number of situations where decisions will need to be made without clear rules and priorities.”

Turbulent future

Lalas is in agreement, however, that drastically increased wind energy is the only realistic way for Greece to reach its targets.

Wind turbines, he says, will have to produce some 9,000MW by 2020 (Agapitidis puts the figure at 6,000MW). Currently, they contribute only 734MW to the country’s installed generating capacity of 11,500MW.

“Technically, it is feasible – provided the many obstacles are addressed,” he says. “But it is not going to be easy, or probable.”

All this, of course, comes at a time of increasing global energy demand which will, realistically, only be met with a continued dependence on fossil fuels.

Energy conservation is, Lalas says, therefore just as important to reducing greenhouse gas emissions as it is to developing renewables.

“The penetration of renewables will increase but, if we do nothing to reduce energy demand, in relative terms it will stay the same as it is now,” Lalas says. “If that happens, we will not keep the temperature rise to below 2 degrees. So we have to do something and it has to be substantial.”

Even if global energy demand remains constant over the next 40 years, he says, renewables will need to account for 50 percent of energy output to keep the temperature rise to manageable proportions, with biofuels (principally wood) taking half the load.

Scorched times ahead for Greece

Droughts, prolonged heatwaves, the increased risk of forest fires and decreasing tourism will be the reality of climate change for Greece by the middle of the century if current trends continue, according to a report published last week by the National Observatory of Athens.

The forecast, which concentrates on the Central and Eastern Mediterranean and the Balkans in 2030-2060, paints a particularly bleak future for Greece. All figures are for an average year during that period, using 1961-1990 as a base period.

Temperature rise

* 1-2 degrees C for southern Greece

* 2-3 degrees C for northern Greece

Summer months

* 2 degrees C for southern Greece

* 2-3 degrees C for northern Greece

Increase in number of days reaching 30+ degrees C

* 7-10 in southern Greece

* 20-35 in northern Greece

Increase in number of days reaching 35+ degrees C

* 15-35 in northern Greece

* Areas under the moderating influence of the Mediterranean Sea likely to see very small or no changes

Warm nights (temperature exceeding 20 degrees C)

* A month (or more) in southern Greece

* 1-2 weeks in northern Greece

Rainfall and drought

Decrease in number of wet days (precipitation more than 0.5mm)

* 1-2 weeks in southern Greece

* 2-3 weeks in northern Greece

Precipitation intensity

* While rainfall will decrease, it is likely to become more intense

Drought

* 2-4 weeks’ increase in the Peloponnese

Impact on water resources

* Greece is already experiencing moderate-to-high water stress, which will be exacerbated

* Lower winter precipitation to result in reduced spring melt and lower spring and summer river levels

Increased energy demand

* An additional 2-3 weeks (for coastal areas) and 5 weeks (inland) will need cooling by 2050

Fire risk

* 2-6 additional weeks’ fire risk

Impact on tourism

* Warmer, drier and more reliable summers in northern Europe will draw a greater number of holidaymakers there, while Greece will suffer erratic water supplies and extreme summer heat, making it less popular

By Thrasy Petropoulos

Thrasy Petropoulos writes for the Athens News.

Spero News

15 May 2008

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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