Keen interest in Arctic uplands

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Have wind power developers at Arctic and sub-Arctic latitudes wasted an opportunity by concentrating on relatively temperate coastal sites while often ignoring the wide open spaces further inland? Ninety-odd delegates at a recent conference in Ostersund, Sweden, on "Wind power in the uplands" seem to think so.

The aim of the conference, organised by the Swedish Windpower Association and the rural development agency for the Swedish county of Jamtland, was to publicise the wind power potential of these upland regions, which tend to be as sparsely populated as they are breezy and chilly. Many of the planning problems that so often obstruct projects in more built-up coastal areas are therefore more easily resolved. Enthusiasts see "a unique opportunity to control development so that the interests of all parties can be satisfied [and] wind power is built for the benefit of the people who work and live there."

Not that Arctic sites are by any means problem-free. Technical specifications have to take account of high average wind speeds and violent gusts, plus extreme cold that virtually guarantees severe icing and frosting for much of the year. Energy produced must also travel far greater distances to the consumer. Nevertheless, "most of the major suppliers are now working full-out to adapt their wind power plants to this new, harsher environment," according to the conference proceedings.

Bonus and Vestas in Denmark and German Enercon are among those seeking to improve the technology, including various forms of blade heating systems, in the hopes of opening up new markets in north Scandinavia and Canada. Enercon agent Eurowind is reportedly planning a wind farm of about a hundred 600 kW turbines at Kall in Jamtland. Several smaller sub Arctic wind plants are operating in Finland; Sweden's first "Arctic" wind power plant, installed at Rodovalen in 1998, comprises 600 kW turbines by Bonus and Nordex, and one 750 kW NEG Micon unit. "Big problems" at Rodovalen have included icing of the anemometer as well as the blades.

Bonus and Kemijoki Oy of Finland have developed a heating system based on an electrically heat carbon fibre element inside and around the edges of the turbine blades controlled by an icing detector. The system yields a maximum 45 kW effect from a 600 kW plant, or 15 kW per blade, and accounts for one per cent of total production; it is now in use at Rodovalen and at Lammasoaivi and Suorva, both in Finland. Tests at Rodovalen of a system developed by LM Glasfiber using microwaves have been abandoned.

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