German developer grows in America

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Germany's Windkraftnord is quietly building up its wind development business in America. The company has just secured over $300 million financing for a wind farm project and plans to soon be building at least one project a year for the foreseeable future. The company is a proven developer in Germany where it has been involved in developing over 60 projects. Nearly half, totalling about 700 MW, are managed by Windkraftnord.

The first wind project developed by the company in the US, the 63 MW Snyder wind project in Texas, went online in December after it had been sold to the US division of Italian utility Enel. Windkraftnord started its US operations in 2002 under the guidance of then 25-year old Florian Zerhusen. The company has since added staff and is currently searching for a chief wind energy engineer. The Snyder project is unique, claims Zerhusen. "It happens to be the most technologically advanced wind farm in the United States."

The plant uses 21 Vestas 3 MW turbines, the largest turbines available in the US, at a hub height of 105 metres "Nobody has gone above 80 metres in the US. Vestas has trusted us in the US as the only developer to date to do 105 metre hub height," Zerhusen says. The wind shear levels for the project, in Scurry County, made the economics more favourable at 105 metres, even though that was more complex and required the use of the largest crane model available in the US, of which there are only four, provided by Barnhart.

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