Dry spell increases interest in wind

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Electric utilities and large companies have begun to take serious note of Norway's vast wind potential in the aftermath of low water levels in 1996 when the hydro rich country was forced to import Danish electricity. With little new water resource to exploit, interest in wind power has risen dramatically as a way to complement the hydro stations, starting with an order for Danish technology.

Kristiansand utility Vestagder Energiverk awarded a DKK 25 million ($3.7 million) contract to Wind World in Denmark recently for a 3.75 MW wind farm, to be erected on the southern coast at Lindenes. Wind World will deliver five 750 kW turbines by June 1998. "We are very glad -- not because of the order's size, but because there is talk about a whole new market in Norway," says the company's Paul Erik Andersen.

Today Norway has only 12 wind turbines on line totalling 4 MW of capacity. The potential has been estimated to be 7000 MW. One difficulty for wind could be the debated installation of two large natural gas power plants on the west coast, but these have so far been widely opposed by Norwegian prime minister Kjell Magne Bondevik and the public.

Another Danish wind company, Vestas, has been reported in the Norwegian and Danish press as having at least five projects in the works in Norway -- in addition to its nine turbines already operating there. But this would seem to be a truth with modifications. "If somebody has that idea, we would like to have it, too," says Karl Gustav Nielsen of Vestas. "We have no actual plans for anywhere in Norway now. We are investigating the potential and trying to see if there are any interested customers. But there are no rules, no laws, no regulations for the production of energy or selling wind for a special price. We can't do anything else but investigate and keep our eye on the market."

In January, the Norwegian press reported widely that Vestas had bought a series of plots of land along the coast in order to initiate local wind co-operatives to build wind farms there. Again, the company reports differently. "We're not interested to buy any square metre of land in Norway," says Nielsen. "I don't know where the idea is coming from."

Home interest

Meanwhile in late October Statkraft, the state owned utility that owns the bulk of hydro power in Norway, announced it will build a wind farm of at least 30 MW. The location is undecided, yet it was not by chance company officials made the announcement on the island of Smøla, on the Atlantic coast just north of Kristiansand and west of Trondheim. Statkraft has pinpointed a 55 square kilometre site here where wind measuring will take place as well as at other sites around Norway.

The company's Geir Fugleseth reports the final decision for a wind station will not be taken until 2000. Kristiansand's newspaper has reported that two more of Norway's largest companies -- Norsk Hydro and offshore oil giant Statoil -- have also been enquiring at the community level about developing Smøla's wind resource. To date, the island's residents have responded positively to wind power development, according to mayor Iver Nordseth.

The giant Norwegian manufacturer of hydro turbines, Kvaerner, has also come out strongly with reports of putting a 3 MW turbine into series production for the regional market. The company has been testing a prototype machine of this size on Gotland in Sweden, but now intends to move its efforts in wind energy back to Norway.

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