First major wind farm

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After a long, patient struggle, Turkey's first sizeable wind farm -- and the first to be built as a Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) project -- was inaugurated in December by the then prime minister, Mesut Yilmaz, and the minister of energy and natural resources, Cumhur Ersumer. The 7.2 MW wind station, using 12 Vestas 600 kW machines on 45 metre towers, is located 80 kilometres from Izmir at the western end of the Cesme Peninsula, reports Mehmet Hanagasioglu of Swiss Interwind, the project co-ordinator. The operating company is Alacati Rüzgar Enerjisi Santrali (ARES).

The plant is expected to generate some 19 million kWh a year, enough to cover about 20% of the electricity needs of the coastal towns of Alacati and Cesme, says Hanagasioglu. The population of the towns swings from 50,000 in winter to 100,000 in summer. ARES has been licensed to operate the wind station for 20 years, after which time it will be transferred to the state. The wind farm is expected to pay for itself after ten years.

The wind farm is intended as the first of several in Turkey. Plans are proceeding for another 100 MW or so of capacity, including a 10 MW station on the island of Bozca-Ada, a project led by cable company Demirel, which last year developed Turkey's first wind cluster near Izmir, made up of three Enercon 500 kW turbines from Germany (Windpower Monthly, March 1998). Also in the works are two 25 MW plants, to be sited close to the ARES project, and a 30 MW project at Camakkale -- both being developed by Asmakinsan, Ankara.

As the first BOT wind project in Turkey, the ARES plant was given special attention by the authorities, who took their time with its progress. Wind measurements were set up by Turkish wind veteran Ergun Özakat of Cesme and were underway for two years before Alacati's mayor, Remzi Oezen, Lockheed Martin Investment Holding of Ankara, and Interwind joined in the project in the summer of 1996.

Lockheed became involved in connection with a contract to supply F16 fighter planes to Turkey, Hanagasioglu explains. Part of the collateral for the supply deal was an obligation to do business with Turkish companies, involving technology transfer and contributing to the infrastructure of the country. Life became much easier once Lockheed became involved, he adds -- especially the company's representative, Steven Andrews, who gave critical managerial support and help with negotiations.

Nordex then Vestas

In February 1997, German-Danish wind company Nordex joined the group as turbine supplier and financed the completion of the feasibility study, which was presented to the Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources the following month. Since it was the first BOT contract for wind, it took nine months of relentless follow-up by Metin Atamer of Interwind-Turkey before approval was finally given by the ministry in December 1997, Hanagasioglu remembers. Each step had to be negotiated and formulated from scratch. "It took a lot of creative thinking," he says.

In March 1998, Gücbirligi Holding of Izmir joined the group as financier. The electricity concession, required before a private company can generate power, was approved by Danistay, the Turkish Supreme Court, on July 9, 1998. At this point the project hit another rocky patch. Everybody was anxious to see the wind station up and running as soon as possible, but large orders at Nordex at that time meant late deliveries. So the company relinquished its involvement and Danish Vestas stepped into the gap, Hanagasioglu recounts.

Within eight weeks of contract signing, the electrical and civil works were completed and the site was ready for the first six turbines when they arrived at Izmir port in September. The machines were commissioned November 20 and started feeding power into the grid of Turkish electricity distribution company, Tedas. The final six units were connected a week later.

After the long saga to project completion, months dogged by negative observations that it would never get off the ground, Interwind believes ARES has proven that it is possible to realise feasible wind projects in Turkey with Turkish financing. The company expects another 50-100 MW of wind to be installed in Turkey in 1999. One of these is hoped to be a 30 MW project to be operated by a new company dubbed IRES, in which Interwind, Lockheed, Demirel and Galkon are involved.

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