Government calls for offshore wind -- Replacing unwanted nuclear

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The Swedish energy agency is calling for a large scale implementation of offshore wind energy to help replace capacity lost by the closure of its nuclear plant. In a new report, the agency recommends a phased in expansion of offshore wind farms over 10-15 years, adding enough capacity to the national grid to generate 10 TWh a year -- or about 4000 MW in total installed capacity.

"The major development of offshore wind power must now be considered a matter of national importance," says Thomas Korsfeldt, director of the energy agency. "The hypothetical development potential for Swedish wind power exceeds the planned target several times. Taking into consideration that a large scale development of wind power is not without complications, 10 TWh is a realistic goal."

The report is expected to add spice to what has been a fairly lacklustre political debate on replacement of generating capacity lost through the current closure of the nuclear reactor Barsebäck I in southern Sweden and the anticipated closure of Barsebäck's second nuclear reactor by 2005. The need for additional power sources in the populated and industrial centres of southern Sweden also plays a substantial role in the report's conclusions.

The energy agency wants to focus on offshore rather than onshore wind for two main reasons. First, planning applications are expected to generate fewer protests from environmental organisations than their land-based counterparts. Second, knowledge of wind conditions in the Baltic Sea off Sweden's southern coast is more advanced than for Sweden's valley and mountain regions.

The report lists seven "special interest" offshore zones, including Stora Middelgrund, Groves Flak and Lilla Middelgrund in the Kattegatt Sea, and Södra Midsjöbanken, Norra Midsjöbanken, Hoburgs Bank and Finngrunden in the Baltic Sea.

"The survey shows there are numerous areas suitable for offshore wind parks, without causing any major disturbance to nature or leisure activities," says Korsfeldt. "In order to realise a large scale investment program, we must obtain energy-political decisions in parliament and government to support a proper development strategy."

On financing, the report advises adopting a more sophisticated and inclusive state-driven funding system. Along with the present support systems, the cost to the Swedish state would be about SEK 4 billion in order to reach the 10 TWh a year production goal, says Korsfeldt. Currently Sweden has 13.5 MW of offshore wind plant on-line.

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