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The days of rural ownership of single turbines in the Netherlands could be numbered -- at least in the area served by electricity distributor EDON. The utility, which covers a large chunk of the north of the country, including the sizeable Noordoostpolder reclaimed from the former Zuiderzee, has decided it will not contract more than 2 MW of privately owned wind power in 1996.

For the farmers and other individuals in the Noordoostpolder who have submitted plans for 7 MW of wind plant, the utility's decision is a bitter blow. Local wind power activist, Harry Wassenaar, of the Stichting Ontwikkeling Windenergie Flevoland (SOWF), is furious about the turn of events. SOWF has already asked the Department of Economic Affairs to intervene in the matter and talks between it and EDON started last month.

It is EDON's hope the department can be convinced that single turbine ownership makes poor economic and technical sense. According to EDON's Jan Veenstra, the utility can buy wind electricity for NLG 0.11/kWh, but is required to pay NLG 0.13/kWh to farmers. "Since we are obliged to spend money for wind energy in the most efficient way, this goes against the grain. We are here to stimulate wind energy; we are not here to help farmers to generate extra income," he says. EDON is a co-owner and developer of a 34 MW wind farm of Kenetech KVS-33 turbines from the US.

Technically, attaching single wind turbines to the grid can also cause problems, especially in the Noordoostpolder, according to Henk de Man, account manager for EDON. Here the 10 kV grid layout is such that EDON has to invest heavily if decentralised generating capacity is enhanced by isolated wind turbines. That is why EDON is only interested in wind capacity that is produced by large wind stations, making the cost of enhancing grid capacity worthwhile.

For these reasons, Veenstra suggests that citizens keen to own a wind turbine should join forces for the development of large wind farms. He points out that distribution companies have the right to limit the amount of wind electricity they want to buy and that EDON wants to exercise that right for the reasons stated. The clause allowing utilities to limit wind power purchases is part of the agreement on wind power tariffs between the association of wind turbine owners, PAWEX, and utility association, EnergieNed.

Meantime resistance among farmers in the EDON area is growing. According to Harry Wassenaar, EDON is misusing the tariffs agreement. "The relevant clause in the agreement was intended as an escape route for utilities in case large amounts of wind electricity were offered. It was never meant to deter small wind farmers that have one or two turbines," he says.

Awaiting the outcome of the talks between the economic affairs department and EDON, the farmers of the Noordoostpolder are far from beaten yet. They are now working on ways to circumvent EDON's policy. One of these would be to sell wind electricity to another distribution company in the Netherlands. Especially in the less windy south, popular interest in green electricity is growing. If the farmers succeeded in selling wind energy to another distribution company, EDON is legally obliged to transmit it.

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