Doom, gloom and not enough room

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With installed wind power capacity growing by a mere 30 MW to reach a total of 325 MW, 1997 may well come to be seen as marking a crisis point in Dutch wind development. The figure, substantially down on the 48 MW installed in 1996 and a pale shadow of the 102 MW installed in 1995, seems to confirm that the liberalised market, where fiscal incentives have replaced subsidies for wind investment, has yet to take off -- and may, as some have claimed, be seriously flawed.

While the capacity addition for last year is still higher than the annual average increase of 20 MW prior to the end of subsidies in 1995, there is a general sense of despondency amongst the Dutch wind community. Ruud de Bruijne of government energy agency Novem acknowledges that at less than a third of the agency's targeted 100 MW annual increase, the 1997 figures were "very disappointing." He suggests that "it is clear that the market mechanisms have yet to kick-in."

His sentiments were echoed by the National Bureau of Wind Energy's, Frank van Erp. "We have reached an absolute low point in the implementation of wind energy," says Van Erp. The Dutch target agreed in 1991 of 1000 MW installed capacity by the year 2000 "looks further away than ever," he adds.

Closer analysis of the annual report of the Dutch wind sector provides few crumbs of comfort. In total, 44 MW of new capacity went into the ground during 1997, provided by 90 turbines, which brought the total number of machines to 1145. But 14 MW (51 turbines) was taken out of use with the decomissioning of 10.5 MW of WindMaster turbines in Flevoland, 3.5 MW of Boumas in Zeeland and an Enercon 300 kW in Friesland. Of the 44 MW, some 23.6 MW is accounted for by just three new projects: the 4.7 MW ENW plant in Waardpolder, Noord Holland, comprising 19 NedWind 250 kW turbines, and the NUON wind farms at Dronten (5.4 MW) and Lelystad (13.5 MW) both in Flevoland. Nine Nordtank 600 kW turbines are operating at Dronten and 18 WindMaster 750 kW units at Lelystad.

Ominously, there was little activity in the year's final quarter, with no new installations at all in September and October. According to Van Erp the prospects for 1998 also look bleak, with few projects in the pipeline.

The marked decline in projects initiated by small investors is perhaps the most significant feature of the 1997 figures and has had an immediate impact on the manufacturer's league table. Lagerwey, second last year and usually guaranteed a strong position on the back of the ubiquitous LW 80, which has a deserved reputation as the farmer's friend, has totally dropped from sight. NedWind from the home country replaced Danish Nordtank at pole position on the strength of its 19, 250 kW units at Waardpolder, while WindMaster's strong showing was due to its refit of NUON's Lelystad farm with 18, 750 kW units.

The decline of the private sector also contributed to an increase in the size of turbines installed: average rated capacity climbed to 492 kW, from 364 kW in 1996. Turbines in the 500/600 kW class made up the majority of the new units installed in 1997. However, the replacement of a number of Boumas with 225 kW Vestas, and the use of 250 kW units at Waardpolder, conspired to keep the average below the 500 kW mark.

Regional distribution figures confirm the picture of stagnation with Groningen, Noord-Brabant, Drente, Gelderland and Utrecht adding nothing to their 1996 totals for installed capacity (table 2). With over half of the year's new megawatts to its credit, Flevoland takes the lead from Friesland as the province with the greatest installed capacity. Groningen remains the only province to have reached its installed capacity target, agreed under a 1991 covenant with central government, while Flevoland is the only other province to have realised even 50% of its agreed quota.

Slow but sure

According to Marielle van Aggelen, head of the National Bureau of Wind Energy (LBW), the figures, while depressing, are not cause for despair. Dutch wind development is always "slow but sure" she says. "The figures may be disappointing, but the sector is still growing, and that is the most important message." The main problem, she says, is increased local resistance to new developments: "Planning problems are more serious than the uncertainty about cost," she believes.

Unfortunately the LBW has no figures for the number of projects denied planning permission in 1997. This oversight is a major problem, says Van Aggelen. "At present, individuals interested in developing a wind farm make an informal approach to their local authorities, where they are discouraged and take no further action." To remedy this situation the LBW is encouraging all prospective wind farmers to put their proposals in writing. "A letter requires a reply, stating the reasons for why the proposals have been rejected," she says. "This will give us a much better idea of the potential demand for wind projects, which in turn will help EnergieNed convince its members to take a more active role in wind investment." EnergieNed is the umbrella organisation for Dutch utilities).

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