Provincial wind quota filled by US turbines

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Kenetech Windpower of California expects to start construction of its first wind farm in northern Europe in September. The 30 MW project, to be built at Eemsmond in the Dutch province of Groningen, will eventually consist of 100 Kenetech Model 33M-VS machines and cost $35 million. The wind turbine design has recently been certified by CIWI, the Dutch certification institute.

Once the wind farm is complete, "that will be it for Groningen," says Domien Brugemann of regional power distribution company, EDON (formerly EGD). "With this wind farm the province has more than kept its part of the bargain with central government," he adds. Groningen is supposed to house 50 MW of the planned total of 1000 MW of wind power in the Netherlands.

The contract for the wind farm between Kenetech and EDON was signed in 1992 and is only a few lines long, according to Kenetech's Dutch representative, Bob Jans. "It says we run the turbines, you pay for the kilowatts." Brugemann is even more succinct in his description of the deal: "No kilowatt hours, no money." Although the price per kWh remains an official secret, it is generally known that EDON pays NLG 0.105/kWh. This compares poorly with the NLG 0.15/kWh which Holland's wind turbine owners association, Pawex, says is necessary to make wind power generation a viable proposition. However, EDON is paying for grid connection as well as the site -- and the kilowatt hour rate is linked to an annual price index. Jans admits that the index does more than simply keep pace with inflation.

Siting the project has proved problematic, but room has been found for the first 70 turbines. Thirty more will follow next year. Some of them will be built on a disused dike and others on private land owned by farmers. EDON and Kenetech are now negotiating settlements with about 100 farmers involved in the deal and an agreement seems likely, says Brugemann. Part of the site also falls within the jurisdiction of the harbour authorities. The area is no longer needed by the military for shipment of large quantities of ammunition now that northern Europe is relatively peaceful and the harbour authorities are looking favourably on using it for wind turbines instead.

Final siting permits for the Kenetech wind turbines have still not been granted, but both Jans and Brugemann say they do not anticipate further problems. The local government has even said it is willing to use a legal shortcut in the planning process to enable a quick start to construction. The project's recently published Environmental Impact Report is now being studied and building and environmental permits will probably be issued in early September.

Demands by the Dutch for the Kenetech turbines to be sited on tubular, not lattice, towers has resulted in a peculiar design compromise: the turbines are to be sited on lattice towers covered in a tubular cladding. "The advantage of the lattice tower is that it allows you to use a much lighter foundation structure at a price which is one tenth of that for a tubular construction," says Bob Jans. But lattice towers are not aesthetically acceptable in the Netherlands, says Brugemann, hence the compromise. According to Jans it is 95% certain the construction will pass technical tests.

EDON has been criticised for not buying Dutch, but Brugemann says that Kenetech simply offered the best deal. Jans points out, though, that at least 50% of the total investment is Dutch. "Only the blades and nacelle are US built. Apart from that, so-called Dutch turbines also contain a lot of parts that were not made in Holland. What is nationality in wind power anyway?" he asks.

For Kenetech, a 30 MW wind farm is a relatively small enterprise but as the company's first in northern Europe it has special importance for the company, says Jans.

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