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United States

Coal country turns wind powerhouse -- Projects and turbine assembly

West Virginia in the Mideastern United States has become a powerhouse in wind energy development almost overnight, with one 65 MW project under construction by FPL Energy, a further 550 MW in two much larger projects in the permitting stage, and plans for a wind turbine assembly facility at Huntington. The path for West Virginia wind projects was cleared last year in the state legislature when wind developers succeeded in gaining a near level playing field in tax advantages for wind development in the coal state (Windpower Monthly, February 2002).

The Huntingdon assembly facility should be ready to take orders by Christmas and deliver turbines by spring, says Matt Pinson of Specialized Power Systems Inc. SPS signed a technology agreement last month with little-known Danish turbine manufacturer Norwin A/S. The facility will produce a 750 kW variation of the Norwin 46-ASR-599/750 turbine for the North American market, including the Caribbean, says Pinson. SPS was formed specifically to build the turbines for Norwin. When fully staffed at about 80 employees, the manufacturing plant will assemble about 20 turbines a month.

Norwin, founded in 1991 and today owned by Per Lading and Ole Sangill, shares its offices in Roskilde with Dan Service, a well-known wind turbine maintenance firm in Denmark. As well as the Norwin trademark, the company also has Danwin and GET turbines running in Denmark, the US and Germany.

Pinson is mindful that of three European turbine manufacturers who want to take advantage of the fast growing US wind market, Norwin is following a path already trodden by Danish Vestas and German Nordex. But he thinks Norwin could be the first to deliver the goods. "We think we have a great shot at delivering a competitive priced machine in the minimum of time," says Pinson. Vestas is considering a facility in Oregon, while Nordex's plans for an assembly plant in Montana have stalled after a 150 MW project by Montana Wind Harness fell foul of bidding and documentation problems. It has not been approved by regulators (Windpower Monthly, June 2002).

Huntington, a city of about 350,000, is an inland port that mostly transfers coal out of the southern coal fields of the Virginias and Kentucky to power plants along the east coast. Indeed, the two projects now in permitting for sites near the Mountain Storm coal generating plant, a 300 MW proposal by Dutch company NedPower and a 250 MW project by US Windforce LLC, are largely to be on land reclaimed from coal strip mining. Permits for both projects are awaited from the West Virginia Public Service Commission (PSC).

For NedPower to complete its project before the current US production tax credit expires on December 31, 2003, the PSC will have to finish its review and approval by November, says NedPower's Jerome Niessen. The company has not chosen a wind turbine, but it says the project will consist of 200 turbines and cost as much as $350 million to complete. NedPower has three projects in operation in India and Germany, a project under construction in Germany, and two projects in Greece and one in Ireland in the permitting stage.

Gaining support

West Virginia wind projects have run into resistance from environmentalists, who object to aesthetic pollution in wilderness areas and parks, and also worry about how turning turbines might affect migrating birds. The NedPower project, however, has won local support for its economic benefits. An Allegheny Power System transmission line crosses the site, which gives the project interconnect access to Mid-Atlantic markets through the PJM (Pennsylvania-New Jersey-Maryland) regional transmission organisation.

US Windforce LLC delivered its application for 250 MW at Mount Storm to regulators in December. Windforce intends to develop the project in two phases, beginning with 150 MW to 175 MW using 1.5 MW turbines. Like NedPower, US Windforce will connect through Allegheny Power transmission into PJM markets. Construction will begin in early 2003.

Meantime, FPL is proceeding with installation of its 65 MW Mountaineer Wind Energy Center using 44 NEG Micon 1.5 MW turbines. FPL, which bought the project from Atlantic Renewable Energy Corporation, expects to have it operating by the end of the year and will sell its output under a 20 year contract to the Exelon Power Team. (Windpower Monthly, August 2002).

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