No more than cautiously upbeat

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Wind capacity in the Netherlands should increase by 70 MW this year if building permits are granted for a number of large scale projects currently in the pipeline, says government agency Novem. But although better than the 50 MW of last year, wind plant installations have yet to return to the national target of 100 MW a year set by Novem and reached just once, in 1995.

The staging of the World Sustainable Energy Trade Fair in Amsterdam last month gave Novem -- in charge of the national wind energy programme -- an opportunity to air its views on the current state of the national wind market. At a press conference on the eve of the fair, the agency's Ruud de Bruijne declared himself "optimistic about the future of wind energy" in the Netherlands, despite the disappointment of 1996, and said he believes the market is developing along the right lines.

He attributed last year's drop on 1995's record to the market adjusting to a new range of fiscal measures which replaced subsidies at the end of 1995. Looking to the future he is confident that enough projects are being planned to make the government's 100 MW annual target realistic.

Anticipating one of the main themes of the congress, De Bruijne said that in terms of reliability and yield, wind technology had now outgrown the "pioneer stage." In addition to the 30% reduction in cost price over recent years, Novem is looking to bring about a further 30-50% price reduction through a joint venture between Novem, Dutch industry and research establishments, ECN and Technical University Delft, which will see an annual investment of NLG 20 million in R&D.

With a total annual turnover of some $2 billion, wind is already a major industry and De Bruijne believes the Dutch will expand their world market share from the current 7% to 10-15%.

On the domestic market the problems remain familiar: scarcity of locations and interminable planning procedures. New initiatives in these areas include a programme to support regional councils in making provision for wind in their planning decisions and a campaign to increase public support for wind.

De Bruijne announced that a Novem survey showed there were currently some 10-15 sites within the Netherlands which could accommodate large scale wind power plants in the 50-100 MW range. Novem was actively pursuing the development of these sites in conjunction with the local and regional authorities, industry and project developers.

In the long term the future of Dutch wind lies offshore and intermediate results on an ongoing feasibility study for a 100 turbine, 100 MW offshore demonstration project leave De Bruijne "optimistic" that a positive decision on construction will be taken before the year's end.

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