Country’s geography makes it prime territory for renewables but hinders plans to cut fossil fuel use
The narrow, steep-sided, rugged island rear ups out of the Aegean. Along its spine, the 55-metre blades of 23 wind turbines turn vigorously: the wind here is far fiercer than on the mainland, visible 20km away.
Ioannis Kouris, one of Terna’s executives who helped establish the wind farm, reels off the advantages of the location: close to the coast, uninhabited (though with a host of archaeological remains that were carefully excavated) and windy. The breeze blows from the north for 80 per cent of the year, making the orientation of Agios Georgios ideal for wind power.
The 73MW wind farm on Agios Georgios, which cost €150m and opened in 2017, produces enough electricity each year for 40,000 households. Terna is still investing, building accommodation for the handful of engineers and support staff who work there in two-week shifts. Altogether the company has 536MW of wind farms in Greece; the country in total has 2,860MW, producing 6,300GWh annually.
Energy industry commentators say Greece could benefit from offshore wind turbines, which have become familiar in other parts of Europe such as the North Sea, but Greece’s government prohibited offshore development in 2010.
“There is significant potential in the Greek seas, even though it is not so easy technologically, as it is quite deep water,” says George Peristeris, Terna’s chief executive. “We had developed a big pipeline [of projects]. Then the government decided to stop all private installation offshore.” One reason suggested by others in the sector is the opposition of Greece’s powerful tourist industry.
Today, Greece has ambitions to become an energy hub for the region. Its geography and climate suggest much potential for renewable energy generation: abundant sunshine, mountain slopes and a vast coastline with thousands of islands, many of which could be put to use for solar and wind power.
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