Germans think big in France

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Fruges wind farm, which Ostwind International France proposes to build in the Nord Pas de Calais region, is to be increased in size from the 150 MW originally announced to around 234 MW, depending on the final configuration of turbines. If it is built, not only will it be by far the largest wind farm in France, but it will constitute almost double the present installed capacity of the country (147 MW).

The size of the project has given rise to some controversy in a country whose largest wind farm is still only 20 MW. Moreover, the French wind tariff is only available to projects of 12 MW or under. Other developers have complained that Ostwind, a Germany company, is playing into the hands of the opposition, which is trying to prove that giant wind farms will come to scar the landscape by stealth.

Ostwind rejects these criticisms. "It's not possible to construct a wind farm by stealth," retorts a company spokesperson. "People in Fruges and the authorities have supported our plans from the beginning of the project. For all parties involved, including EDF, it is an important pilot project to develop the use of wind energy in France." EDF is the state utility. It is also developing wind farms at home and abroad.

The Fruges project is made up of 129 turbines in three sizes -- 750 kW, 1.5 MW and 2 MW -- to be supplied by two manufacturers yet to be named. It is expected to be completed by 2005. Altogether, Ostwind has 13 projects underway in France and is preparing about 25 more. The next projects to be completed will be St Clement in the Ardèche (two Nordex 600 kW turbines expected to be inaugurated this year), Ille-sur-Têt (20 MW, to be built in 2005) and Salon de Provence (45 MW), about which no further details have yet been released.

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