Size barrier ignored

One contract winner from the latest Eole-2005 wind tender has attracted attention because of its size and choice of technology. At 18 MW, the Plateau de Bel Airn project will be the second largest wind farm in France -- after the 7.5 MW wind station of Zond turbines running at Le Souleilla Treillas -- but it breaks the legal size barrier of 8 MW for independent power plants, still officially in effect. Electricité de France (EDF) has admitted the need for industrial sized wind projects, however, and cirumvents the limit by splitting projects such as this one into 7.5 MW segments, says EDF's Michel Benard.

Enron Wind of California is the developer, along with French partner Eole Cevennes. The wind farm will be erected at 1440 metres in a desert area in the La Montagne Ardechoise region of the Cevennes in southern France. Wind speeds are 8.3-8.6 m/s, says Daniel Peyregne of the company. Although the land is flat and accessible by trails, 18 kilometres of power lines must be erected or buried to access to the grid. The two small villages in the area have endorsed the project with enthusiasm, says Peyregne.

Due to the harsh winters, the developers plan to use heated blades from Kemi Joki Oy of Finland to avoid icing problems. Uncertainty still exists over the machine itself, which could either be 1.5 MW units from German Tacke or 21 machines from American Zond; both turbine manufacturers are owned by Enron.

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