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Netherlands

Plans Launched for huge dam project, dutch governments considers utility report for Windtech notes MW

After two years of persistent rumours, plans for a major wind farm along the Afsluitdijk dam to capture the energy of the often ferocious North Sea winds have finally been unveiled. The project's initiator is utility ENW. The proposals have been drawn up jointly by ENW and NUON. They make provision for the placement of some 60 wind turbines with a combined capacity of 75-100 MW.x

The 32 kilometre Afsluitdijk -- the huge dam which connects the Dutch provinces of North Holland and Friesland and keeps the North Sea out of the Netherlands -- has long been considered a prime site for a wind power plant. Now, after two years of persistent rumours, plans for a major wind farm along the dam to capture the energy of the often ferocious North Sea winds have finally been unveiled. The project's initiator is utility ENW, based in Alkamar, which announced the scheme at a press conference held in the administrative headquarters of the North Holland provincial authorities in Haarlem on June 10.

The proposals have been drawn up jointly by ENW (North Holland) and Arnhem-based utility NUON (Friesland, Gelderland, and Flevoland). They make provision for the placement of some 60 wind turbines with a combined capacity of 75-100 MW.

However, with responsibility for the dike's upkeep divided between two provinces, development of the site is fraught with political danger. Already the ambitious plans for what could be Europe's largest wind farm have run into political heavy weather -- with NUON refusing to attend the conference after being tongue-lashed by the Friesland local authority for pre-empting its own plans.

Three possible configurations for the wind station are outlined in a report submitted by the two utilities to the Ministry of Economic Affairs on June 9. Option one would see the 60 turbines placed at 500 metre intervals along the length of the dike in the waters on the southern, IJsselmeer side. Option two proposes a similar configuration on the northern, Waddenzee side, facing the North Sea. Under the third, and least favoured option, the turbines would be clustered off the coast of Den Oever in North Holland.

Two blades preferred

Should the project receive all its permits, it would supply electricity for 70,000 households and require an investment of some NLG 250 million. According to ENW's Gert Kliffen, financing the project will present no problems. The development will qualify for "green investment" funding of which there is currently a surplus in Dutch banks and additional finance will be supplied from the "green electricity" schemes operated by both utilities.

Anticipating strong objections from the conservation and wildlife lobbies, the report pays considerable attention to the environmental and visual impact of the project and concludes that in terms of minimising danger to the local birdlife and harmonisation with the landscape, an IJsselmeer development using two bladed 70 metre high turbines is the preferred option.

But it seems the political dimension is currently the biggest problem facing the project, with the waters well and truly muddied even before the press conference began. Originally billed as a joint presentation by ENW and NUON of Arnhem, NUON withdrew at the last moment after Siem Jansen, a Friesian local councillor and member of NUON's governing board, voiced strong criticism of the proposals in the Friesian daily paper, the Leeuwarder Courant.

Describing the presentation as a "slap in the face for Friesland," Jansen said the province had spent two years working on its own proposals for a wind plant and was engaged in complex negotiations with a number of ministries. By choosing to make their presentation at this time, the utilities had effectively "driven a coach and horses through those negotiations." In a forthright denunciation of ENW, NUON and the Province of North Holland, he added they were acting "only for their own greater glory, and not in the interests of wind energy."

In light of these remarks, NUON decided to withdraw from the press conference. It says it will not be making any comment on the proposals until it had mended its relations with the Friesian provincial authorities.

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