Finished at last, Dunkirk plant

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The largest wind plant yet to be built in France -- a development of nine 300 kW turbines at Dunkirk -- generated 18,000 kWh in its first week of operation in early November. The turbines were supplied by Dutch company WindMaster, which took over the project following the bankruptcy of Belgian HMZ WindMaster.

The wind plant stretches along a dam protecting Sollac, the largest steel manufacturer in Europe. Close by is Europe's largest nuclear power station, the 5400 MW Gravelines plant.

Noise and bird disturbance at the site has already been an issue, though the wind plant was not to blame. A local motorcycling champion ended up in hospital after being shot by wildfowlers who accused him of disturbing ducks in the area. But according to the management of the wind plant, the wildfowlers' are quite happy to see wind turbines along the coast -- just as long as their access to the area for shooting is not disallowed.

The change of wind turbine supply company delayed the project by almost a year. Local French component suppliers had a particularly hard time as they were required to deal with new specifications. Georges Marchal of CMD-Engrenages of Cambrai, which supplied the gearboxes, admits he was close to scrapping some of the equipment he had manufactured for HMZ before it went out of business. The total share of French content in the project is 66%.

The wind farm equity is shared between local public authorities, including the Region Nord Pas de Calais, and the project is supported by CHART, the financial subsidiary of national utility Electricité de France.

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