Oil company goes green with wind -- French turbine mix

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Oil consortium TotalFinaElf (TFE) has taken the first steps towards realising a future green energy strategy with approval for a 12 MW wind farm near its Flanders refinery at Mardyck, close to the port of Dunkirk in northern France. As planned, the EUR 15 million plant will comprise two, 2 MW Vestas turbines, two Nordex 2.5 MW machines and one GE Wind 3 MW turbine. All three manufacturers have set up subsidiaries in France since the government set a favourable variable tariff for wind plant of up to 12 MW last year.

TFE says the move is part of its commitment to "develop wind farm projects which are both innovative and environmentally sound" and believes it is ideally placed to make a large investment in wind energy as it owns many industrial sites on the coastlines of Europe where there are strong winds and existing infrastructure.

Power produced from the Mardyck plant will be sold to Electricité de France. A 2.7 MW wind plant at Dunkirk of Dutch Lagerwey machines has been operating since 1997. Detailed impact studies were carried out by consultants EED of Lille before TFE submitted its planning application and the local community has been kept informed. Being sited near an oil refinery, the plant will cause minimal landscape and noise impact, according to TFE, and benefit from existing maintenance expertise and electrical infrastructure.

TFE favoured the installation of very large turbines of "proven technology" from established manufacturers because it sees the wind farm as a stepping stone towards building wind farms offshore. There are already plans for an offshore wind farm at Mardyck to be built by another consortium, SAEML Eoliennes Nord-Pas-de-Calais, which wants to build a 12.5 MW offshore plant, but so far no start date for the project has been announced.

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