Government pilot back on track -- Dutch offshore

Plans for the Netherlands' Near Shore Windpark (NSW) are back on track following the favourable outcome of an expert commission's report on the siting of the government's 100 MW pilot project. The same report, however, looks to have delivered a blow to plans for the simultaneous development of commercial offshore projects.

The government's long mooted near-shore pilot wind plant looks set to go ahead as planned at the Egmond site eight kilometres off the Dutch coast after a review panel endorsed the original recommendation of a 15-20 metre maximum water depth. The commission recommends a softly-softly approach to offshore development with the NLG 450 million test plant providing a first step towards true offshore wind power generation.

The commission was convened by the economics ministry to review the siting of the NSW -- controversially near to the coast -- after Dutch energy consultancy E-Connection presented proposals for the immediate development of two, fully commercial wind farms 23 kilometres offshore in depths of 20-25 metres (Windpower Monthly, December 2000). The committee's endorsement of the NSW consequently bodes ill for E-Connection's permit applications and more ambitious offshore plans.

But E-Connection head Mathieu Kortenoever remains upbeat. "Fortunately the economics ministry is not responsible for issuing permits, this is the task of the ministry of transport, public works and water management, and they are processing the request so there is no indication it will be rejected," he says.

Kortenoever criticises the commission's report on a number of counts. Firstly he challenges its apparent recommendation of the near shore project over and against the E-Connection plans on the grounds that a smaller wind farm is preferable to a larger to initiate offshore wind farming in the Netherlands. "The NSW will comprise some 70 to 100 turbines, our first wind farm will be just 60 turbines, so we are clearly the smaller," he says.

Secondly, he questions the seeming arbitrariness of the ruling that it is "responsible" to build at a depth of 15-20 metres but "irresponsible" to work at 20-25 metres, asking "what practical difference is there between 20 metres and 23 metres?" Kortenoever also dismisses the claim that a plan eight kilometres offshore will be more accessible in bad weather than one beyond the 12 mile zone. "Storms do not stop at the 12 mile zone," he points out.

Finally he criticises the commission's proposal that offshore sites be put up for auction as the sea bed beyond the twelve mile zone is public domain. "But so is the sea bed within the 12 mile zone, so this is another inconsistency," says Kortenoever.

The report was, however, well received by economics minister Annemarie Jorritsma who promises to bring the remaining stages of the planning procedure to the earliest possible conclusion.