Sited at Hurghada, the major city of the Red Sea coast, the WETC is one of four elements of the Egyptian-Danish collaboration on development of renewable energy in the country (see main story). While the Egyptians built the centre and arranged for its design, the Danish national laboratory at Risø supplied the data collection and test facilities. Supporters of the WETC argue that wind development on the scale planned at Zafarana -- 600 MW by 2005 -- needs the support of a technology centre, initially to test and demonstrate the technology and train wind plant personnel, later to conduct research programmes and certification of equipment made in Egypt.
Critics of the scheme are still laughing. They view the centre as an expensive palace in the desert, a glistening illustration of the folly of much of the Danish spending in Egypt. This, they say, is based on no more than a mirage. There is no turbine manufacturing industry in Egypt, they point out, and even the first 60 MW of technology to come from Denmark is way behind schedule. What and who is the wind technology centre going to serve? Legislation creating a market for wind energy should have come first.
Yet according to Risø's Jens Carsten Hansen, the wind centre has already proved the importance of its existence. Transfer of know-how has started with the training of technicians in Denmark. Transfer of technology so far includes partial manufacture of one of the two Nordtank 300 kW turbines now running in a side-by-side testing programme at Hurghada. One of the machines was made in Denmark and tested at Risø while components made in Egypt for the second machine include the blades, from a mould supplied by LM Glasfiber in Denmark. The Egyptian Nordtank is also mounted on a lattice, rather than a tubular tower.
The side-by-side testing is also giving valuable data, says Hansen. Among other things, the testing has revealed a dramatic drop in power output over the year because of dirt build-up on the blades. Dirty blades is a problem known from California, but not common in Europe. "It is important to discover these local problems on a test wind turbine before full scale development," says Hansen. Once testing is complete, the two Nordtank units are to join four sister machines to make up a demonstration wind farm at the WETC.
The centre was completed in 1995 and is now ready to run. It consists of a wind turbine testing facility, a central management building, mechanical and electrical workshops and a central monitoring and control system for the WETC's three demonstration wind farms. The Danida sponsored project of Nordtank turbines is only part of a larger New and Renewable Energy Authority demonstration facility of 38 machines. As well as the Nordtank units, the facility is made up of ten Ventis 100 kW machines from Germany, financed largely by Germany's Eldorado programme, and 22 Danish Wincon 100 kW units. A further four Wincon turbines are sited five kilometres to the south of the demonstration site, some 12 kilometres north of Hurghada.
A major aim of the centre, say both Hansen and Lis Jespersen of the Danish embassy in Cairo, is to demonstrate to the Egyptian government that wind power is viable. Apparently it takes big and beautiful projects to convince Egyptians.