Another annual record for new wind plant -- Dutch move past 900 MW

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For the second year running, the Netherlands booked a record volume of new wind plant, installing 183 turbines which added 233.420 MW to the national total -- a net capacity gain of 226.165 MW after decommissioning of old turbines. The increase beats 2002's all time record of 200.926 MW and brings the Netherlands' installed wind capacity to 912 MW.

In a year which also saw record low winds, Dutch turbines generated 2.024 million kWh, covering some 1.9 % of total power consumption, roughly equivalent to the power needs of 598,00 households, calculates Dutch wind monitoring service Wind Service Holland (WSH).

Among manufacturers, Vestas again took the lion's share of new capacity with 98 new turbines contributing 120 MW. Enercon installed 33 turbines (60 MW) and NEG Micon 34 turbines (33.2 MW). If Vestas' merger with NEG Micon goes ahead, the shake-out of the Dutch market leaves only GE Wind to contest the spoils. In 2003, GE installed 13.5 MW provided by nine turbines.

For the domestic turbine production industry, 2003 was a particularly bleak year with the venerable Lagerwey finally succumbing to its financial woes and passing into the hands of Delaware-based investment company VINAK Inc, having filed for bankruptcy (Windpower Monthly, November 2003). A month later, a fire on December 1 resulted in the permanent closure of the Almelo rotor blade production facility acquired by GE Wind as part of its purchase of Enron Wind. The plant was formerly the home of independent blade maker Aerpac. GE Wind will continue to maintain a research base in the undamaged section of the plant, but production has been discontinued with the loss of some 220 jobs.

The only bright spot was furnished by Zephyros BV, which in 2002 bought the rights for the Lagerwey designed Zephyros 2 MW direct drive wind turbine. Having sold the first prototype to Rotterdam utility Eneco, Zephyros closed the year with a 22 turbine order from the government of Taiwan.

In the provinces

There was no change in the geographical distribution of new capacity with most turbines again being built in the province of Flevoland (table). Noord Holland's resurgence was largely thanks to utility sponsored projects, some 40 MW in total, but Dutch development was mainly driven by private investors, including the year's largest wind farm, the Vestas equipped 21 MW Piet de Wit at Ooltgensplaat in Zuid Holland, which was an initiative of the Deltawind co-operative. The three Enercon 2 MW E66 machines at the Punthorst in Overijssel were the first wind turbines to be built in that province.

The big question facing the Dutch wind sector is "Can the trend be sustained?" The prognosis is not too bright. "We are expecting to build around 90 MW in 2004," says Ard de Poot, head of marketing at Vestas-Nederland. "That decline is due mainly to the introduction of the new MEP subsidy system, and particularly to the full capacity hour regulation."

Introduced in July 2003, the MEP subsidy of EUR 0.049/kWh for onshore wind and EUR 0.068/kWh for offshore projects replaces a range of fiscal incentives for renewables production. The controversial "full-capacity hours regulation" decrees that MEP will be paid to wind turbines only for the first ten years of their life or 18,000 full-load hours, which ever comes sooner. Confronted with industry arguments that this will encourage fraud and inefficiency, the government has said it will review the regulation in July -- a decision which most believe will encourage a disastrous "wait and see attitude" among investors.

The introduction of the MEP signals a wider sea change in Dutch renewables policy which has hitherto been geared to stimulating demand by offering consumers tax breaks on green power. These were phased out at the end of 2003 and the incentive to import renewables electricity removed. While the end of the tax break looks to be dampening demand for green power, domestic renewables production is insufficient to meet the needs of Holland's 2.2 million green power consumers. The stop to imports looks as if it is stimulating utility interest in domestic wind development. Whether increased utility interest will compensate for the decline in private investment remains to be seen.

The prognosis for 2004 is further complicated by the likely construction of the 60-90 MW mega-project at Delfzijl Zuid, recently given the go-ahead by the supreme court after seven years of siting permit hold-ups.

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