Utilities get surprise tender competitor

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Despite continued uncertainty about the future of a proposed 300 MW wind plant on the Netherlands' Afsluitdijk dike -- the rampart that keeps the North Sea out of Holland -- competition for the right to develop the site has intensified. A rival consortium, Ontwikkeling Windpark Afsluitdijk (OWA), has emerged to compete with utilities ENW and NUON, who first proposed the project. The new consortium includes some major players in Dutch wind.

Heading OWA is Eneco, a Rotterdam utility with 41 MW of the country's 325 MW of installed wind power. With the Afsluitdijk proposal, the utility is taking advantage of a new law that allows power companies to tender for projects outside their traditional distribution areas. Joining Eneco is E-Connection, a project development agency based in Bunnik. The third player is management consultancy Beheersmaatschappij Lubbers (BL), part owner of Dutch turbine manufacturer Nedwind. Financial backing for the project, estimated to cost between NLG 650-750 million, is to be provided from green investment funds operated by the Triodos Bank, Rabobank and the Friesland Bank.

The ENW and NUON proposal to develop a large wind station along the 32 kilometre dike linking the Dutch provinces of North Holland and Friesland was originally made in 1997 (Windpower Monthly, May 1998). The two provinces are giving the project a general review, which is expected to run until summer 1999. The wind farm's feasibility is currently under scrutiny of an environmental impact report financed by the economic affairs ministry. ENW and NUON are active in Friesland, Gelderland and Flevoland.

Although no official tender has been made, OWA has requested its alternative development plans be considered in the environmental review of the project. Exactly when it will be opened for tender "is still a hazy picture" says Mathieu Kortenoever of E-Connection. "However, after the completion of the environmental impact report, developers will have to apply for building and environmental permits, and we hope to be one of the concerns putting in an application."

OWA has commissioned Austrian architect Gunnar Daan to prepare sketches of the proposal, which comprises some 200 turbines in a bow formation running the length of the dike between the sluice gates and extending some eight kilometres into the IJsselmeer Lake at its apex. Such a deployment would minimise the possibility of bird kills, OWA claims, and it would be more in keeping with the location than the straight line formation running parallel to the dike proposed by NUON and ENW.

Feasibility questioned

The OWA proposal also questions the feasibility of existing plans to use 100, 3 MW wind turbines, arguing that any development of the site should be based on an adaptation of existing wind technology. The project should instead work from the assumption of 200, 1.5 MW units for the intended 300 MW goal.

Whether the project will ever be realised is uncertain. In July this year the government pledged support to North Holland and Friesland and agreed to fund preliminary research, giving cause for optimism. But an unnamed official of the ministry of agriculture and environment was recently quoted in local press as saying the developers must "tread carefully" if they are not to contravene national and European planning regulations, which would necessitate a major revision of planning guidelines.

Kortenoever is optimistic: "The project will go ahead. It's just a question of when."

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