Full sail for wind power

The winds of the Aegean Sea could guarantee the islands a steady power supply, following investment interest in electricity production via wind parks. Four billion euros in funds, half of which come from abroad, are awaiting the nod of the licensing authorities to support investments that could put an end to the fragmentary and unreliable power network on the islands. It has taken the Aegean Islands 12 years since the liberalization of the renewable energy sources market in 1994 to become the focus of investment plans for the production of a total of 2,800 megawatts from wind parks. Such output covers 30-40 percent of the country’s total installed power, with Regulatory Authority for Energy (RAE) President Michalis Karamanis telling Kathimerini that «it borders on the limits of the system,» which means that this is the maximum power that can be absorbed. Actually even this amount of output is not certain to be absorbed. «This is something we must look into, and maybe we should go beyond the power system operator (DESMHE) and into special consultants,» said Karamanis, adding that «investors may be forced to combine wind parks with pumped-storage electric power plants. Such an investment would allow us to store any excessive power produced at a wind park. Of course, this raises the total cost by 30-40 percent or even 100 percent at times, but if deemed necessary we will demand it of investors before licensing them,» he explained. He sees the interest in big investments on islands as positive: «Besides securing clean energy, as we will not have to consume oil, we will also avoid the cost of utility services of up to 300 million euros just for the islands,» Karamanis suggested, arguing that such investments are another huge opportunity for the influx of foreign funds, citing the example of the big project by Rokas SA with the 49.9 percent participation of Spain’s Iberdrola. He thinks that technically the projects planned by Rokas and the Mytilineos and the Kopelouzos groups are feasible both for wind parks as well as underwater connections with the country’s continental network. «Yet there remain some questions about their acceptance by the islanders,» Karamanis noted, referring to an old problem of such investments. The acceptance of investments by local communities remains one of the risks for investors, who remain optimistic since their relationship with locals has matured. Rokas SA «The local communities have responded warmly to our investment plan. They immediately embraced it and we have even received letters of gratitude,» the CEO of Rokas SA, Matthaios Troullis, told Kathimerini. He noted positive the response in Chios, Lesvos and Lemnos, where the company will install 44 wind parks of 1,636 MW, investing 2.4 billion euros. «These three remote islands suffer most from the poor electricity network. It is nationally imperative that they do not look across the sea to Turkey to resolve their energy problem and with this investment they feel they are solving it. They also look forward to the financial benefits of the 2.5 percent levy on the annual turnover, which is to go to local authorities,» Troullis said. He also noted the benefits to the environment and the Greek economy in general. «From the oil to be saved, we will benefit by some 1.5 billion euros per year for all islands, not including the advantages in reducing pollution,» he stressed. The Rokas CEO brands the project «a big challenge, as it is the biggest investment worldwide in the sector, guaranteed technically and financially by Iberdrola.» He added that the project is viable and can be completed within two years from the time it becomes licensed. Local communities on Andros, Tinos, Syros, Paros and Naxos, where the Kopelouzos group along with that of Samaras are planning an installation of 400 MW, have also accepted the investment with warmth. The plan also provides for a connection with Lavrion in Attica via Syros, totaling 700 million euros. «We have received the consent of local communities. It was they that first invited us to become active,» said Dimitris Kopelouzos, head of the group. «The Cyclades project respects the environment and is fully included in the DESMHE plan for the development of the Greek network. It serves the interests of the Public Power Corporation, too, as its use relieves PPC of the huge cost of operating local units and the obligation for direct investment in those islands to increase installed power and the rising demand for power,» he argued. The sole problem, he suggests, is an environmental one. «The determining factor for the studies required is how quickly the Public Works Ministry will act toward their approval,» he stated. All three groups, however, note the key part played by the framework tabled this month in Parliament in favor of investments. «The law is positive. [Development Minister Dimitris] Sioufas has made a law that favors investments,» said Kopelouzos. Mytilineos Executive members of the Mytilineos group are also optimistic about the implementation of their investment plan. They are also taking for granted the consent of local communities, but maintain some reservations as «at any point, even during the investment’s operation, you may run into a problem. This is the great liability of such projects,» they say. The group is promoting the installation of wind parks of 800 MW on the islands of Milos, Kimolos, Poliaigos and Sifnos and their interconnection with the network at Lavrion, at a total budget of 1 billion euros. Realizing this investment, a top official at the group suggests, will offer a reliable solution to the islands’ power supply and support for the southern half of the grid which has stability problems. Notably, all three groups view favorably a partnership with PPC, which has planned the production of 1540 MW of power with a partner, or 770 MW on its own.