According to the government specifications released at the end of October, prospective projects must have a total installed capacity of 100 MW, comprising wind turbines of at least 1.5 MW which will be operational for a maximum of 20 years. Further, a monitoring and evaluation program should form part of the proposal. While some in the industry regard aspects of this program as excessive, such as a requirement to monitor "growth" on the turbines despite the availability of data on this aspect of offshore constructions already available from the offshore oil industry -- the details of the tender procedure have been generally well-received.
An advisory commission has been set up to assess the bids. Applications approved by the commission will be ranked on a points system. The criteria for allocating points will include: the quality of the bidder, the quality of the project plan, the financial support for the plan and the "demonstration" value of the project. Should a proposal require more than NLG 20 million in subsidy, its points tally will be docked accordingly, effectively capping the grant at NLG 20 million, even though a maximum subsidy of NLG 60 million (EUR 27 million) is available in principle.
Economics minister Annemarie Jorritsma will announce the commission's finding in mid-April. The successful applicant will then be expected to apply for the necessary building and planning permits. The winner will also have to reach agreement with the ministries of economics and finance on the use of the ground where the farm is to be built.
To date three Dutch led consortia have declared their interest in the project -- The Near Shore Wind Power Group (NSWP), the Noordzeewind consortium, and the E-Connection group -- but German and Belgian consortia are also rumoured to be making a play for the project development rights.
NSWP is led by Dutch utilities Eneco and Essent who are joined by building concern Heijmans, marine construction specialists Van Oord ACZ and Siemens Nederland. NSWP's financial backing is in the hands of Rabobank International while Profin Sustainable Energy Solutions will act as consultant and supervise the tendering process. NSWP expects the project to cost some NLG 400-430 million and estimates annual production in the region of 300 million kWh.
The Noordzeewind consortium comprises Dutch energy company Nuon, offshore experts Shell Renewables, Jacobs Comprimo (a division of Stork engineering) and ING Bank. Nuon and Shell can both claim offshore experience with the development of the 2 MW Blyth Offshore plant which was officially opened off the northeast coast of England a year ago.
E-Connection is the third company to have said it will bid for the government project. It has already joined forces with Vestas, Smit Maritime Contractors, ABB and Fortis Bank to apply for permits to develop two 120 MW wind farms some 23 kilometres off the coast in developments separate to the NSW (Windpower Monthly, May 2001).