Ten Wind plants off Swedish coast

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Plans for offshore wind power plants amounting to some 750 MW of installed capacity at ten locations off the southwest coast of Sweden have passed the first bureaucratic hurdle. The potential developer, Renewable Energy AB, has initial permission from the national coastal authority, the Kammarkollegiet, to proceed with plans for 25-80 turbines at each site, amounting to a total of about 500 turbines in the 1.5 MW class, producing some 2 TWh/year.

Significantly, the first offshore wind plant, of 80-90 turbines, will probably be located not far from the Barsebäck nuclear facility at Vresund, between Barsebäck and Landskrona. The controversial Barsebäck reactors are due to be closed in 1998 and 2001 as part of Sweden's long term energy plan to phase out nuclear power. According to Renewable Energy's Mats Envall, 25 wind turbines is the minimum to make an offshore installation viable.

Whether the offshore plans go ahead will depend on the outcome of a long and complicated permitting process. Renewable Energy must deliver environmental impact assessments to the ministry of the environment for the next stage of approval, which will then be followed by a final review from the national water board. The sites have been chosen to ensure that the wind turbines will not be visible from apartment buildings or holiday homes.

In June, the developer hosted an offshore seminar for regional and national authorities, including those from fishery and nature protection organisations. The programme included a tour to the 5 MW offshore wind farm at Tunø Knob in Denmark.

Renewable Energy's Envall is optimistic about a positive outcome after hearing no objections to the company's plans at the seminar. Offshore proposals in Sweden circumvent the usual public right of appeal -- a point made all too clearly by Renewable Energy when it gleefully told the Swedish press that local communities would have no say in the matter. In the uproar that followed this unwise piece of public relations, nearly all local politicians came out against the plans, requiring hasty assurances that it was beholden on the water board to take community opinion into consideration when making its rulings.

With construction dates a long way off yet, Renewable Energy still has time to repair the damage. The offshore plans call for implementation from 2002 to 2012. Renewable Energy plans to sell the plants to utilities, following the pattern already set with its wind farm on the artificial island of Gipsön, where twelve 600 kW Vestas turbines are now operated by utility Sydkraft.

Meanwhile, Renewable Energy has received final permission for its proposed 7.5 MW wind farm in the harbour of Malmö on the southwest coast of Sweden, across the sound from Denmark. It is expected that utility Vattenfall will invest in the project, with turbines selection in coming months.

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