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United Kingdom

North Sea offshore team gathers

Work on the UK's first substantial offshore wind project is progressing but is still at a very early stage. Windmaster Developments was a surprise winner of a power purchase contract for an offshore wind farm under the fourth round of NFFO support in February 1997. The London based company is the UK wind farm developing arm of Dutch manufacturer Windmaster. The 30 MW North Sea project is planned for the Gunfleet Sands, within sight of the seaside resort of Clacton-on-Sea in Essex.

According to Kevin Jenden from Windmaster Developments, the development team. is only just coming together. "We had to wait some time to get wind data," he explains. The wind speeds are as good as the company had hoped. This summer he expects to complete a marine geological survey and sea bed tests. He expresses satisfaction with the sub strata which is firm and not subject to movement by tides -- a veiled reference perhaps to PowerGen's project proposed for the Scroby Sands, a shifting sand bank off the Norfolk coast. This failed to get a contract in NFFO-4.

No final decision has been taken on the size of turbine to be used but Jenden assures that it will be based on proven technology. It could be an uprated version of Windmaster's 750 kW model. This is to be used for Britain's only other offshore wind plant -- two turbines one kilometre off Blyth in Northumberland.

Despite the slow start, Jenden claims he feels comfortable with the timing for the project; all NFFO-4 contracts include a five year window to allow for development.

American backing

Albert Jochems of Windmaster Nederland says the chances developing other large scale offshore projects have improved considerably since a controlling share of the company was bought by management and a group of unnamed American investors (Windpower Monthly, February 1998). "With our new American backing, this sort of project becomes much more feasible," he said recently.

Despite the American input, Jochems expects the company's head office to remain in the Netherlands. With the expertise in offshore developments that Windmaster gains from the British projects, it will be particularly well placed to bid for a long-mooted 100 MW Dutch offshore pilot project, should this eventually move beyond the planning stage.

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