West coast wind chain

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An ambitious 300 MW wind project in northern Germany, dubbed the West Coast Wind Chain, is being planned in Schleswig Holstein. Groups of turbines will be installed at sites roughly along a 110 kV transmission cable owned by Schleswag utility. The cable follows a north-south route between the rivers Stör and Eider.

Planning and installation of the wind power station, divided into a series of sub-projects, is by Wind Consult Nord (Wincono) of Brunsbüttel. Wincono was set up several years ago by ten people in various professions who put DEM 1.25 million into the scheme. The aim is to reduce grid connection costs, says Helmut Gertz of Wincono. The costs of the project have been estimated at DEM 400 million, but this could be optimistically low. DEM 2000/kW is an accepted rule of thumb guide for wind plant, suggesting that DEM 600 million is a more realistic figure, unless considerable economies of scale can be achieved.

Wincono's aim is to finance the project with investments by local people, hoping thereby to win them over to the idea by ensuring that the wealth created stays in the region. Subsidiary companies will be set up for the sub-projects with shares offered in these, too. Late last year Wincono brought together all parties involved in the scheme, from banks to planning officials and town mayors. They were generally positive and the Commerz Bank of Brunsbüttel and the municipal Sparkasse banks in the west coast towns agreed to set up a consortium to work together on financing.

Schleswag and one of its parents, Preussenelektra, have indicated they have nothing against the wind input into the grid which can accommodate 120 MW in the district of Steinburg, south of the Kiel canal. This part of the wind chain may be realised relatively quickly. North of the canal, however, the district of Dithmarschen already has applications for 350 MW of wind projects. In addition 27 MW has been installed and a further 24 MW is under construction. As grid capacity is limited, some of these projects may have to be dovetailed into the wind chain or, more likely, a new 110 kV cable installed to replace the 60 kV cable.

Despite the expense of a new 110 kW cable for the wind operators, the project as a whole (assuming it reaches 300 MW) will still be comfortably economic for investors, comments Gert Nimz of Schleswag. However, it could be a costly undertaking for the utility. The supply fluctuations from 300 MW of wind power can be significant and not entirely predictable. The utility has industrial customers taking 50 MW capacity, which can run their processes at higher or lower loads to adapt to input from the wind station. But this flexibility will not be enough in view of the planned 300 MW of wind input. Buying in capacity from its supplier, Preussenelektra, when turbines suddenly cut out, because of too much or too little wind, will be expensive, warns Nimz.

The Schleswag utility argues strongly, too, that it will be unfairly burdened by having to pay for the wind power produced at the high rate set by government. The extra costs of this wind energy, says Schleswag, should be offset nationally against the 8.5% Kohlepfennig levy paid by all electricity customers to raise funds to support German coal production.

Nimz adds that, by the end 1993, applications to install 978 MW of wind power had been made to the utility within its supply area -- 604 single turbines (190 MW) and 281 wind power stations (788.4 MW). At the end of the year, the Schleswag grid had 137.9 MW of wind plant on it.

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