Policy could hinder more than help -- Only big turbines

Proposals by the regional council of Noord Holland for a minimum 1 MW limit on turbine size in the Dutch province -- and strict restrictions on the siting of single turbines -- have been branded an act of "sabotage" by a wind turbine owner's co-operative. But the intention is to boost wind by bringing Noord Holland's planning policy in to line with the latest developments in wind turbine technology, says the council's Krijn van Rijn.

The proposals are contained in a new policy document being given its final reading by the provincial authorities. It lists particular areas where new wind farms will, and will not, be allowed, and further identifying types of favoured location and types of wind plant. Single-turbine projects will only receive council backing at a limited number of carefully defined sites -- specifically, where line or cluster formations are not possible, within industrial estates, at major infrastructure junctions and near striking landscape features. In this respect, Noord Holland is following in the footsteps of the provinces of Groningen and Friesland in discouraging the continued construction of solitary turbines.

Furthermore, Noord Holland proposes giving its support only to wind farms comprising at least three turbines in the 1 MW-plus class in line formation, or five of the same size-class in grid formation. The 1 MW minimum is an attempt to maximise the region's capacity by making the best use of the available land, says Van Rijn. "Besides, very few manufacturers still produce models under 750 kW," he adds. Restrictions on tower height have also been scrapped.

Act of sabotage

Kees van Schouten of the Westfriesland Wind Co-operative strongly disagrees that the policy will help the planning deadlock. A three turbine farm using machines of that size would require a site of some 1.6 km by 1 km of which there are precious few in the province, he says. Far from strengthening the region's wind industry, the new policy is an act of "sabotage" he claims. "Fourteen years ago we had to fight to get rid of a 20 metre tower height restriction. After a while they decided things weren't going fast enough and it became increasingly difficult to put up solitary turbines. Then we had to build wind farms. Now that we're building wind farms they throw up another barricade and tell us that there is to be a 1 MW minimum."

Van Rijn dismisses allegations that the planning guideline will stifle the development of wind in the province. "The new policy is clear evidence of the regional council's determination to support wind," he says.

Under its 1991 covenant with the central government, Noord Holland promised to make provision for 250 MW of wind. To date, with just 45 MW operational and a further 79 MW in the planning phase, the province might seem to have some way to go to meet its target. "Not so," says an indignant Van Rijn. "By giving its full support to the long mooted 300 MW Inter-Provincial Windpark Afsluitdijk (IPWA), the province has more than fulfilled its part of the deal."

While central government continues to debate the IPWA plans, Noord Holland is keen to continue promoting wind not only out of environmental considerations, but to boost the region's economy, says Van Rijn. Wind is one of the major beneficiaries of the province's decision to invest the NLG 41.2 million proceeds from the sale of its refuse company in the environment, he points out.

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