Choose your partners for the North Sea -- Three consortia prepare to bid for Near Shore Windfarm

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Following a protracted public enquiry and expert review, the Dutch parliament has finally approved the government's recommendation for a long-planned Near Shore Windfarm (NSW) to be sited some eight kilometres from the coast of Noord Holland off the town of Egmond aan Zee. The ratification rounds off a planning and research program that began in 1997 and begins a process which should lead to the selection of a developer this autumn for the government sponsored project.

The tender, initially for the right to apply for construction permits, looks likely to be closely fought between three consortia: the Near Shore Wind Power (NSWP) group with power company heavyweights Eneco and Essent; the Noordzeewind consortium led by Dutch energy company NUON; and the Neshwind consortium led by E-Connection.

NSWP has taken an early lead in the publicity offensive with the launch of a web site. The consortium includes building concern Heijmans, marine construction specialists Van Oord ACZ, and Siemens Nederland, a local branch of the German electric industry giant. Financial backing is in the hands of Rabobank International while Profin Sustainable Energy Solutions will supervise the tendering process.

NSWP indicates that its wind plant will comprise some 70 units for a total capacity of 100 MW. Project details are vague as the actual site within the approved area will be decided by the winning contractor. NSWP's turbines will be mounted on steel tubes of three to four metres diameter driven 50 metres into the sea bed. Rotor diameter will be 50-70 metres.

With a 500 metre interval between each turbine and a 500 metre buffer zone around the perimeter, the wind station will occupy up to 16 square kilometres. The whole area will be closed to shipping with the exception of maintenance craft. Cables will be laid between the turbines one metre below the seabed for data communication and electricity transport. The shore bound power transport cable will be connected to the nearest 110 kV grid.

NSWP expects the project to cost some NLG 400-430 million, of which the government will pay a maximum of NLG 60 million from its CO2 reduction funds. Annual production is forecast in the region of 300 million kWh, enough for some 80,000 families. The plant will dismantled after 15 to 20 years.

Confident NUON

NSWP is up against stiff competition. "We're going to win," says Raoul van Lambalgen of NUON-owned wind consultancy WEOM, which is consulting to the Noordzeewind consortium. As well as NUON, the group comprises offshore experts Shell Renewables, Jacobs Comprimo (a division of Dutch Stork engineering) and ING Bank, which will act as financial advisor. Both NUON and Shell were involved in development of the 2 MW offshore plant off the northeast coast of England. Again, the precise configuration of the site will be determined by its location but the group is looking to use the largest possible units. "At the moment we're thinking about 50, 2 MW turbines but it may be 40, 2.5 MW by the time we're ready for construction," says Lambalgen. He is optimistic that production will exceed 300 million kilowatt hours a year. He is looking for a payment of NLG 0.15-0.20/kWh.

Weakest on paper

The third contender, the Neshwind consortium led by E-Connection, has no major Dutch power company on board and looks to be the weakest on paper. Although one of the earliest to declare its interest in the project, the consortium was dissolved at the end of last summer when Eneco and Rabobank left to join NSWP.

E-Connection, which is also applying for permits to develop 120 MW some 23 kilometers off the coast, has not, however, abandoned hope of securing the near shore contract. "When the tender is announced we will go into that tender with the same parties with whom we are doing the offshore: Vestas, Smit Maritime Contractors, ABB and Fortis Bank," says the group's Mathieu Kortenoever.

He feels the group's plans for a development further out to sea could give it a major advantage. With environmentalists looking for a near shore wind farm as far offshore as possible, Kortenoever thinks his group may have the edge. "We're confident that we have a good chance because if you can do a project 25 kilometres out to sea in 23 metres of water, then technically you can do a copycat eight kilometres from shore at 15 to 20 metres."

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