Utilities rush to sea

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Denmark's two utility associations Elktaft and Elsam have said they will build 4000 MW of wind offshore. The higher than predicted output of the country's first two offshore wind plants, at Vindeby, south of Zealand, and at Tunø Knob, off the east Jutland coast, along with cheaper construction costs than expected, have led to broad political agreement in Denmark to exploit the sea-based wind resource.

The sudden utility interest in building wind plant voluntarily, however, is raising the spectre of monopoly domination of what could be a lucrative business. The wind lobby is already pointing to a power struggle over who should develop an offshore project in waters off Copenhagen -- a private development group or the local electricity supply company. A group calling itself Copenhagen's Energy and Environment Office -- which developed the city's first co-operatively owned wind station -- is behind plans for 20, 1.5 MW turbines on a submerged sand bank outside the city harbour. But the city's gas and electric utility is attempting to take over the project. It wants to erect 27, 1.5 MW turbines in a project costing some DKK 459 million ($70.6 million).

Meantime, Elsam has applied to build two projects offshore -- one in the North Sea off Esbjerg and the other in the Kattegat. Not only did Elsam's Tunø Knob project prove cheaper to build than predicted, it produced up to 30% more power than expected during 1996's poor winds. The newly emerging class of large turbines with rated capacities of 1.5 MW turbines has also boosted utility interest in going offshore. Denmark's goal is for 1500 MW of wind by 2005 and 4000 MW by 2030. Some 800 MW is intalled today.

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