Turbine owners pay for grid expansion

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Wind turbine operators in Lower Saxony have joined forces to pay for the strengthening of a 100 kV grid to allow for 105 MW of new wind capacity at the Wybelsumer Polder wind station northwest of Emden. Owner of the network, major utility PreussenElektra, had insisted that 75% of the DEM 14.9 million (EUR 7.6 million) in total costs of the grid expansion had to be secured before work could begin, says Helge Pommer of wind developer Ingenieurgesellschaft für Energieprojekte (IfE). Ten wind station companies and many operators of individual turbines have now raised the required DEM 10.3 million, Pommer says.

Three new overhead cables are to be laid along an existing route between Emden and Wilhelmshaven. PreussenElektra has guaranteed that the work will be finished by the end of 1999, says Pommer. Although the wind station operators are paying for the grid upgrade, PreussenElektra retains all rights to ownership and will finance future maintenance and repair through its grid use charges.

The expansion comes just in time-the grid will be able to handle 105 MW and not a megawatt more. IfE plans to install 42 Enercon 1.5 MW E66 wind turbines for three operating companies; these include 17 units for regional utility EWE, 20 for local wind co-operative Wybelsumer Polder and five for the turbine company Enercon. In addition to these machines, other operators in the region have plans to install another 42 MW of wind turbine capacity.

All power will be fed into EWE's local network. Since 1997, three E66 machines owned by EWE have operated alone at the Wybelsumer Polder wind station, which will be spread over two sites with the expansion. A new transformer station is planned by the end of the year to receive the wind power.

The financing was arranged by grid infrastructure company Netzinfrastrukturgesellschaft, set up by the Lower Saxony Energy Agency. Originally, this company had proposed that up front financing for grid expansion come from the European Union. Wind operators could pay once their turbines were on-line. When this idea did not work out, says Pommer, it took two or three years for potential operators to accept the idea of paying the grid expansion and then to secure loans and bank guarantees. The role of the Netzinfrastrukturgesellschaft has now shrunk into little more than a money collector, regrets Pommer.

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