Danes strengthen offshore grip -- Dong buys Gunfleet Sands

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With 30 wind projects in nine European countries, Denmark's Dong Energy (formerly Danish Oil and Natural Gas) says it now ranks among the top five largest wind project developers in the world, with a leading role in the offshore sector. Most recently it bought the rights to the Gunfleet Sands 100 MW project off the east coast of England from GE Energy. Dong is currently negotiating for wind turbines and expects to announce the supplier within the next two months. It declines to name which company it is talking to, though Siemens is believed to be a front runner.

Dong's Michael Steen-Knudsen says the purchase of Gunfleet Sands only cost a "few million crowns," because GE was very interested in selling. There is no requirement that the turbines be bought from GE, he says. The project is Dong Energy's third British offshore venture following Barrow and Burbo Banks. Barrow was commissioned last year and Burbo Banks is to come online this year.

Gunfleet Sands, seven kilometres off Clacton-on-Sea in Essex, has all necessary construction permits. It is the oldest of all the British offshore projects, having won support in 1997 for construction of 30 turbines under the fourth round of the government's Non Fossil Fuel Obligation. First developed by long defunct Dutch company, Windmaster Developments, it was sold to Enron in 2001 before falling into GE's hands when GE bought Enron Wind. GE's plan had been to erect turbines on the site in 2005 and 2006 using its 3.6 MW offshore design, seven of which operate off the coast of Ireland at Arklow Bank. But the plans were quietly dropped and for the past two years GE had been "considering its options."

The offshore project is one of more than 30 projects in England, Norway, Sweden, Poland, Germany, France, Spain and Portugal that Dong is currently working on. The company has set aside DKK 10 billion (EUR 134 million) for investment in wind power over the next ten years.

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