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United States

Short list out for next hundred megawatt, Minnesota continues to breath life into US market

Four finalists have been announced in the United States for the next 100 MW of Northern States Power's (NSP) wind development on Buffalo Ridge in Minnesota. Those selected are Dominion World Power of Newport Beach, California, EcoWest of San Diego, California, Northern Alternative Energy of Minneapolis, Minnesota, and Zond Development Corp of Tehachapi, California. The shortlist follows the announcement, also last month, of almost 23 MW in wind power purchase contracts with NSP by Northern Alternative Energy (NAE).

The final winner, who must complete the 100 MW for Phase III of NSP's committed 425 MW in just over two years, is to be announced in June. Meanwhile, construction by Zond of what is now being called "107 MW" for Phase II, is tentatively to start on June 1, when weight restrictions on local roads have been changed, says NSP. Phase II had initially been billed as 100 MW when put out to tender. All NSP's wind development is the result of a controversial deal made by the utility to build wind plant in return for being allowed to store nuclear waste within the state. NSP has agreed to have 425 MW in place by the end of 2002. Phase I, 25 MW of Kenetech KVS-33 turbines, was completed in 1994.

Mixed nationalities

Of Phase III finalists, the names NAE and Zond Development Corp, part of Zond Corp, the country's largest wind developer and part of Enron Corp of Houston, are familiar in the industry. NAE bid with German designed Tacke 600 and 1.5 MW turbines. Less known is EcoWest, a partnership between the low-profile wind developer SeaWest of San Diego, the Danish manufacturer Micon, and a Japanese finance company named Nichimen, which bid with the Micon 750 turbine. The second new name on the short-list is Dominion World Power, a joint venture between New World Power Corp and its owner Dominion Bridge Corp, the publicly traded construction giant of Montreal, Canada (Windpower Monthly, September 1996). Dominion World Power also bid with Danish technology, the Vestas V-66, 1.6 MW machine. The bids were evaluated by Reed Consulting Group of Massachusetts.

Industry praise

Wind industry reaction to the short-list was positive. "It looks like [the independent evaluator] has recognised who the industry leaders are," says one observer. He recalls the Phase II short-list was notable for no bids that included respected Danish turbines such as Micon, Vestas or Nordtank, although it did list finalists who proposed leading German technology such as Enercon and Tacke. Zond is often mentioned for being relatively new as a manufacturer and for having yet to unveil the Z-46, the design to be used in Phase II.

The project is hugely significant in the context of the domestic US market, which has lagged as the electricity market undergoes deregulation and because of the bankruptcy of Kenetech Windpower. "NSP generation projects will constitute about 40% of all wind gener ation projects built in the United States in the next two years," says NSP's Audrey Zibelman, the utility's manager of resource planning. "This level of wind generation in our mix far surpasses any other utilities outside California and is indicative of NSP's increasing reliance on renewable energy to meet our customer's needs," she says.

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