ENGIE starts with small wind turbines

ENGIE Electrabel and Fairwind, a trailblazer in the construction of small wind turbines, have just signed a partnership agreement on the operation and marketing of small vertical-axis wind turbines. By entering into this agreement, ENGIE has once more confirmed its desire to lead the energy transition in Belgium.

ENGIE Electrabel Fairwind jbc sli
Solutions in the field of decentralised renewable energy generation for SMEs ...
ENGIE Electrabel Fairwind jbc sli
... and for farms

Fairwind is the Belgian number one for the construction, installation and operation of small vertical-axis wind turbines. Unlike their big sisters, these small wind turbines have blades that rotate on a horizontal plane. The Seneffe-based Walloon company has already installed around twenty of them here.

For its part, ENGIE Electrabel is Belgium’s leading producer of green energy, boasting some 614 MW of installed capacity. So it was clearly a perfect match for Fairwind! The two companies have now formed a partnership for the further marketing of Fairwind’s turbines. The partnership agreement has also enabled ENGIE Electrabel to enhance its range of solutions for decentralised renewable energy generation. François Boisseleau, Product Manager B2B & Green Mobility at ENGIE Benelux, has more details about the agreement and its implications.

Last year, ENGIE Electrabel published the findings of a university study it had funded on the potential of small wind turbines and their benefits for SMEs. Is this partnership a result of that?

François Boisseleau: “Yes, it is. This is a classic example of how research and development can inspire action in the field. Before, we weren’t sure if the technology was mature, but the university study convinced us that it was. And now we have teamed up with Fairwind to bring small wind turbines to the market. Both companies are thrilled about the partnership.”

How much power can a small wind turbine generate?

F.B.: “Fairwind has two models: a smaller one that generates around 30 MWh, and a larger one that generates a little more than 100 MWh. To give you a better picture of what that means, the smaller model generates enough electricity to supply six or seven households. Naturally, the idea is that the customer will consume all of the power their turbine generates, which will reduce their bill for power from the grid and cut down on taxes and distribution charges too.”

Who are small wind turbines for?

F.B.: “They’re clearly a good solution for SMEs and farms, but also for bigger companies whose situation prevents them from having solar panels or a large wind turbine. Of course, everything will depend on the amount of space the companies have available, their position relative to the wind, the amount of electricity they consume and its price. That said, small wind turbines don’t take up that much space and you can walk underneath them. To name but one example, a car dealership in Arlon has installed a small wind turbine in its car park.”

How do small wind turbines benefit SMEs and farms?

F.B.: “Generating their own power allows them to reduce their energy dependency and slash their bills. Their electricity prices will be locked down for the power that they themselves generate, and they will be less vulnerable to fluctuations in costs and taxes. If their wind turbines allow them to cut their consumption by 50%, their bills will decrease by the same amount. Investments in small wind turbines are the most profitable in Wallonia, where they pay off after 5 to 10 years. It’s also worth remembering that Wallonia has a system of investment subsidies, with grants equivalent to 20% of the amount invested for farmers and 12.5% for SMEs. That accounts for a sizeable chunk of the investment. The support mechanisms are not as generous in Flanders: it takes 2 or 3 years longer to see returns there, but investing is still worthwhile.”

This partnership also expands ENGIE Electrabel’s range of solutions.

F.B.: “It will enable us to offer our customers the best possible decentralised energy solution, which will strengthen our position as the leader of the energy transition in Belgium. We believe in calling on a diverse range of energy sources to satisfy our customers’ needs: wind power, solar power (with ENGIE Sun4Business), combined heat and power generation and, soon, energy storage. These solutions aren’t mutually exclusive either. An SME could choose to generate power with both solar panels and a small wind turbine. In fact, depending on the season, these two options complement each other.”

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