Developer forced to use larger turbines -- Downsized pilot wins approval

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An 80 turbine offshore pilot project off the German coast, Sandbank 24, has won approval from the federal shipping office, Bundesamt für Schifffahrt und Hydrologie (BSH). The original plan, put forward by a development team calling itself Consultancy Network Energy and Environment and led by Projekt GmbH, with Projekt Ökovest, Overspeed and Planet, had been for 120 turbines, but an 80 turbine limit was imposed by BSH. In support of its original application, Projekt had argued that a smaller project would not be financially viable (Windpower Monthly, May 2004).

The developers had planned to use 3 MW machines and start construction sooner, rather than wait for larger machines to arrive on the market. Since the plant is planned for a remote site -- 90 kilometres west of Sylt island in the North Sea -- the developers did not believe the large number of machines would be a problem. BSH disagreed.

Reportedly, the 80 machine limit was set by BSH based on experience abroad, where the largest wind stations yet built are both around 80 turbines. BSH has received applications ranging from projects of 12 turbines to well over 1000. It argues that offshore wind is still experimental and that 80 units will not block shipping or cause irreparable environmental damage. In general "the wind industry has accepted this figure," it says.

Projekt Ökovest's Ubbo de Witt says the use of larger machines for Sandbank 24 is necessary to achieve the same earnings as projected for 120 smaller machines. "We are now in new negotiations with turbine manufacturers," he says. He adds there is "a lot to be said" for equipping existing offshore turbines with both larger blades and larger generators to create an intermediate step before moving up to 5 MW machines.


Sandbank 24 still lacks a cable permit. De Witt says it is accepted that the transmission network on shore will cope with input from the several planned North Sea offshore pilot phase stations. The state of Schleswig-Holstein is working to co-ordinate transmission to shore from those projects, he adds.

Seabed investigations at the project site will begin in 2005, so that construction of Sandbank 24 can start in 2006 for completion by 2007, de Witt says. Construction of the pilot plant must begin before August 2007 or the BSH will withdraw the licence. Eventually, the Sandbank 24 development team is seeking to increase the project's size by another 900 turbines, or a maximum 4500 MW.

De Witt says permitting of Sandbank 24 has triggered considerable interest from potential investors. "We are making a couple of presentations a week to oil and gas, energy and other companies from as far away as Australia," he says.

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