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The Basque and Central Governments create a new company for operating the first Spanish ocean energy research plant (bimep)

2011 December 28

The Basque Energy Agency - Ente Vasco de la Energía (EVE) - and the Institute for Energy Saving and Diversification (IDAE) have reached an agreement to create a new government company that will own an ocean energy research facility located in Armintza, in the municipal district of Lemoiz (Biscay). It is the first plant of its kind in Spain and the second in Europe. The company is set up with a share capital of 10 million euros, 80% contributed by the Basque energy agency and 20% by the State agency.

The project to install a research facility for demonstrating and operating systems for harnessing the energy of the ocean waves in the Basque Country has taken a step forward with the creation of the government company in charge of building, starting up and operating the facility. The company goes by the name of the Biscay Marine Energy Platform S. A. (bimep). The Basque Energy Agency will have an 80% stake in the new company and IDAE, the Ministry for Industry's Institute for Energy Saving and Diversification will have a 20% stake. The agreement to create the company was signed today in Madrid. There is only one other facility of this kind in Europe, which is already in operation in Scotland.

The new company's corporate purpose focuses on four priorities:

  • The development and installation of a facility for testing and demonstrating renewable ocean thermal energy conversion.
  • Research, testing, demonstration and operation of the full-size converters, their components and ancillary elements.
  • Research on the development of renewable ocean energy from every angle, including environmental, technological and naval aspects.
  • Commercial operation of the facility and the production of electrical energy.

The project is now in the process of being implemented and is planned to open in late 2013. It is one of the Basque government's strongest commitments to promote renewable energies in the future. The bimep is also directly linked to the Basque Energy Strategy (3E2020), ratified by the Cabinet two weeks ago, whose priorities include increasing the use of renewable energy by 87% until it produces 14% of the energy consumption.

The bimep will be a global benchmark, attracting technology and investments to the Basque Country. The drive to develop ocean energy has placed the Basque Country in the front line of countries that are committed to this innovative energy source. The Basque Energy Agency awarded the installation of bimep's power and communications lines in February this year. The contract implies an investment of 10.4 million euros.

The investment for developing the full project comes to 20 million euros. A contract for supplying and installing the underwater cables has already been awarded and start up is planned for 2012-2013. Up to 30 researchers are estimated to conduct research on a range of technologies at the facilities in the first four years.

Ocean energy has enormous potential as an energy source. An estimated 80,000 TWh per year could be harnessed worldwide, which is equivalent to four times Europe's gross energy consumption in 2009. The Basque coast could attain 2,000 GWh per year with the current level of technology; in other words, 10% of Basque power consumption could come from the energy of renewable ocean waves.

Mutriku is already in operation

In 2011, the EVE also set up the first renewable ocean energy project in Mutriko. The installation is located in a breakwater in the port to use the waves' energy and it is the first European plant connected to the main power grid.

The Basque Country has invested 2.3 million euros in this project, which has a capacity of 296 kW and can produce an estimated 600,000 kWh per year, equivalent to the annual energy use of 600 people. Its use of renewable energy sources will mean a reduction in pollution equivalent to the planting of 80 hectares of woodland.

This new plant, inaugurated in July by the Lehendakari Patxi López, is a global benchmark and will pave the way for new marine developments and the creation of a new production sector that generates wealth and employment.

Four underwater cables

The bimep will occupy an area of 5.3 sq km in the sea, cordoned off by buoys, at 1,700 metres from the coast, opposite the port of Armintza. There are plans for 4 underwater cables of 5 megawatts each to transfer the energy to the coast from the ocean devices under study which are anchored to this area of the bimep. All the energy produced by the wave converters will be sent landward and injected directly into the main power grid.

The cables also include fibre optics for transmitting essential research data on the operation and performance of the devices. A research and monitoring centre in Armintza will manage the testing department and promote technological development in the fields of knowledge required.

The bimep's power lines run along the seabed and underground on land to minimize visual impact and prevent damage from anchored ships and the fishing tackle used in the area. The cables will enter the sea through horizontal perforations to prevent damage to the cliffs.


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