Linking Turbines Directly To The Tank

Sweden isn't a hot wind power market in Europe, not compared to Germany (20,000 MW of capacity), Spain (11,000 MW) or even Great Britain (nearly 2,000 MW). In fact, the Swedes currently have a paltry 572 MW of wind capacity, generating about 1.2TWh of power last year - less than one percent of electricity produced in this Nordic nation.

But Sweden has audacious goals (4.9 TWh of generation by 2010), and is starting to formulate a big vision to go with its big plans, based on the idea of wind power helping to drive (bad pun alert) a new generation of plug-in hybrid vehicles creating plausible climate neutral driving.

The way the Swedish Windpower Developers Association (SVIS) sees it, the Swedish vehicle industry (Volvo and Saab) and Swedish windpower are a great fit.

There are a few reasons why these gung-ho Swedish wind proponents may have a chance. It is true that Sweden will probably need to vastly up its renewable generation and reduce CO2 emissions further in coming years, especially after the EU sets binding CO2 reduction targets for the post-2012 period, which it should do early next year. Wind is one of Sweden's best bets. Hydro power is pretty developed, remaining rivers are already protected - and biomass resources, which benefited from a green certificate subsidy system, are also fairly well-exploited.

Combining turbines with hybrids in a distributed generation system may not be such a stretch for the Swedes. Wind generation is a bit fickle, and many grid systems including Sweden's are not built to handle lots of incoming electricity from the spots where the wind blows best. But in a vehicle-to-grid (V2G) system, many small wind installations feeding in power are balanced by electric or hybrid-electric cars plugged in and theoretically offering up their excess capacity during times of peak need, taking it back late at night or when demand is lower.

Two more points in the Swedes' favor: the first European lithium-ion battery developer just opened its doors in Sweden, and Volvo at least is heavily investing in hybrid-electric technology. Volvo Cars is now showing its C30 ReCharge hybrid-electric plug-in concept car, and perhaps as important, Volvo Trucks is at work on a next generation of all kinds of hybrid vehicles.

Also not to be overlooked: Volvo and Saab with their nice heavy (safe) cars, unfortunately have some of the highest fleet-average CO2 emissions in Europe, which they will need to rectify.

There are definite roadblocks - in spite of itself Sweden hasn't been able to yet streamline approvals for wind power projects, whether they are for 12 turbines or 1,200. The approval process for Lillgrund, the new offshore wind farm in the picture, took a decade! And many Swedes, grown up on a combination of clean hydro and nuclear, see wind power as great in theory but in practice, a NIMBY nuisance. There are also clearly technology hurdles - battery cost and sophistication are just two.

But SVIS is conviced that V2G is a great concept to sell to the environmentally-conscious as well as everyone else, and will put forth its vision to the government in a few days, hoping for a new national policy on wind power and a plan for how to form a Swedish V2G network. :: Svensk Vindkraft (in Swedish and English)

Tags: Sweden | Wind Power