New €1.2 billion European Research Infrastructures on Wind, Solar and Nuclear Energy

Three new pan-European energy research infrastructure projects have been announced by the EU. A wind research facility is planned in Denmark, a concentrated solar power installation in Spain and a nuclear research reactor in Belgium. The overall investment is about Eur1.2 billion.

They will be part of the Roadmap of the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI). Energy research infrastructures play an important part in realising the European Strategic Energy Technology (SET)-Plan.

In its updated Roadmap 2010, ESFRI has identified 50 new research infrastructures or major upgrades of existing ones, in order to stay at the forefront of research over the next 10–20 years. Their total construction cost amounts to some Eur20 billion and their operational cost would be around Eur2 billion per year.

One of the objectives of the Innovation Union is to launch by 2015 the construction of 60% of these priority European research infrastructures, primarily financed by EU Member States, but with the support of European Programmes.

In Denmark, the WindScanner project has the capacity to produce detailed maps of wind conditions at a wind farm covering several square kilometres. This knowledge will lead to more efficient, stronger and lighter wind turbines. The facility will be in operation from 2013 and costs will be between Eur45 and Eur60 million. WindScanner will be operated by the Risø DTU National Laboratory for Sustainable Energy near Roskilde, leading a consortium with six other partners, from Germany, Greece, Spain, The Netherlands, Norway and Portugal.

The solar research infrastructure EU-SOLARIS at the Advanced Technological Centre for Renewable Energy in Tabernas, Almeria (Spain) focuses on developing new technologies for concentrated solar power and has a construction cost of about Eur80 million. Other complementary sites at several leading European laboratories – representing European countries with the most solar potential (Portugal, Italy, Greece and Turkey) and Germany (technological provider) – will be part of the new research infrastructure.

The Belgian nuclear fission research infrastructure MYRRHA, in Mol, has research capacity on the reduction of radioactive nuclear waste. The detailed engineering design of the facility is scheduled to be completed in 2014. The total construction cost is budgeted at approximately Eur960 million (2010-2023). MYRRHA will be the first large facility in the world for research on radioactive spent nuclear fuel and its reduction via partitioning and transmutation. The infrastructure can also be used to test the feasibility of a new generation of nuclear power plants – the Lead Fast Reactor technology. MYRRHA is a complementary infrastructure to the Jules Horowitz Reactor (thermal spectrum reactor), under construction in Cadarache, France.

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