First Dutch offshore project now all set -- Slow but happening at last

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At long last, the first Dutch offshore wind farm actually looks as if will get built in 2006. Construction is to start soon on the 108 MW Near Shore Windfarm. NoordzeeWind, a 50 -- 50 joint venture between Shell and Dutch energy company Nuon, is developing the EUR 200 million facility, ten miles off the town of Egmond aan Zee. The construction contract was awarded last May to Bouwcombinatie Egmond, a joint venture between Dutch offshore contractor Ballast Nedam and Vestas, for installation of 36 Vestas 3 MW turbines.

The project is being accompanied by an extensive research program to study its ecological impact and technical aspects such as turbine behaviour and integration into the electricity system. The Dutch government selected NoordzeeWind as a partner in July 2002. Since then geological surveys, wind measurements and the compilation of an environmental impact statement have been completed. Power cables will be installed between the grid connection point at Velsen and the wind farm's onshore transformer substation.

Other offshore project developers in the Netherlands are still playing a waiting game. Last month the government had still to produce the results of a review due on January 2. It slapped an 18 month moratorium on licensing offshore wind plant in early summer (Windpower Monthly, June 2005), apparently a panic reaction to the volume of applications flooding in, saying it would review the situation when the number of applications reached 78. Only five few months earlier it had had lifted a freeze on new applications.

Evelop, the developer of the 120 MW Q7 offshore project, also long in planning in the Netherlands, is waiting for a license before it can obtain final permits. The company had hoped to have the EUR 250-300 million project underway this year. The whole process has been dogged by a "stop and go" situation, says Evelop's Ernst van Zuylen. "It takes longer every day and becomes more uncertain."

Stop and go

In neighbouring Belgium, the country's major offshore project Thornton Bank, is on track, according to C-Power, the Belgian consortium developing it. C-Power's Filip Martens says the company has now obtained all the necessary permits and authorisations for the facility, planned for a minimum capacity of 216 MW and a maximum of 300 MW. Now a detailed engineering plan is being drawn up and C-Power is in the last stages of deciding on a supplier. It has already said the turbines will range in size from 3.6 MW to 5 MW.

Construction of the first six-turbine phase of the project, which includes the 38 kilometres cable connection, should begin in the second quarter 2007. Thornton Bank lies about 30 kilometres offshore. The second phase of 18 turbines is due for completion in 2008/09 and the final 36 turbines in 2009/10.

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