Politicians and planners thinking big

A "declaration of intent" has been made between top government politicians and planners in Friesland and North Holland to go ahead with a wind plant proposed for the Afsluitdijk dike. While the proposed size has now trebled to 300 MW in capacity, the official approval has not yet been made.

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Provincial authorities in the Netherlands have dismissed as "premature" reports of an official go-ahead for a controversial 100 MW wind farm on the 32 kilometre Afsluitdijk dike linking the Dutch provinces of North Holland and Friesland. Despite reports in the Dutch press that the capacity of the proposed wind farm on the Afsluitdijk would be trebled to 300 MW and that the plant would come on- line by the year 2000, the future of the controversial mega-plant is still uncertain, officials said last month. They do not, however, deny that plans have been tabled for a 300 MW wind farm on the dike and that it would consist of some 200 turbines.

A meeting between government and all the parties involved in the project in March registered progress on several fronts, but official approval has yet to be given, according to Siem Jansen, a Friesian deputy to the Provincial Executive. Jansen, who is charged with the revision of Friesland's regional wind policy, says the meeting -- between the ministries of economic affairs ministry and the environment, the provinces of Friesland and North Holland, four local authorities and the utilities ENW and NUON -- resulted only in a "declaration of intent" under which the signatories promised to co-operate in the realisation of the project.

A final decision, in the form of a written agreement between the provincial executives, the local authorities and the utilities, will be made only after a further meeting at the end of this month.

Whether the covenant is signed depends on central government, according to Jansen. "Although [representatives of the] ministries will not be expected to sign the written agreement," says Jansen, we "still need to know whether central government is prepared to co-operate in principle." A clear commitment from the Hague is important, Jansen believes, given that the Ministry of Agriculture, Conservation and Fisheries opposes any development initiatives on the Northern side of the Afsluitdijk in the Wadden Sea.

"At present there are no plans for a north shore development," he adds, but if further research shows this to be the best option, he does not want the project to be restricted. "Without such an agreement we could see the size of the project substantially reduced," he points out. Even with an agreement it is unlikely that the plant will be operational before 2000, adds Jansen.

Dramatic expansion

He confirms that the original plans for a 100 MW plant have been revised for a 300 MW development which will utilise 1.5 MW units, although precise details of their deployment have yet to be finalised.

The dramatic expansion of the proposal looks set to change the face of wind policy in the northern regions of the Netherlands and could signal the end of solitary turbine construction in Holland's northernmost provinces. The government has set a target for 1100 MW of wind power by 2000. In 1991 each of the seven windiest provinces in the Netherlands agreed to develop a specific amount of wind power capacity.

A 300 MW development on the Afsluitdijk would effectively fulfil the respective quota agreements reached by both Friesland and North Holland. Although the precise division of the 300 MW between the two provinces will depend on the arrangement of the turbines, a 50% split would enable Friesland -- which currently has an installed wind capacity of 59 MW -- to more than fulfil its 200 MW quota agreement, while North Holland with 38.5 MW installed capacity would also be in a substantially better position to fulfil its original quota commitment of 250 MW.

While Jansen refuses to confirm that should the project go ahead it will be tied with a ban on further construction of solitary wind turbines in Friesland, he says that allowing scope for individual investors will be part of any eventual financing arrangement for the Afsluitdijk project.

Opinions on a possible increase in the regional installed capacity quotas after 2000 are still sharply divided (Windpower Monthly, March 1998). The economic affairs ministry regards the current quota levels as a minimum, while Jansen believes any increase must be met from off-shore developments.

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