More vision than construction at present -- Denmark leads Scandinavia offshore

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Long the world's offshore wind power leader, Denmark lost its title to Britain last year by the smallest of margins. Denmark failed to increase its 400 MW of truly offshore capacity, while Britain added 100 MW to take it to 404 MW. Denmark may briefly gain the lead again in 2009 when a 224 MW extension to the Horns Rev wind station in the Danish North Sea comes on line, but that will not last for long. Britain has more than 570 MW in construction and all of it is due online this year and next.

Offshore wind development is not dead in Denmark, however. Last month the government re-issued its invitation for proposals to build a roughly 200 MW extension to the existing Rødsand 168 MW plant off the Danish coast at Nysted. The first invitation, issued in 2004, resulted in the selection of Danish energy company Dong and the Swedish division of German utility E.ON to build the project. But one after the other, both companies pulled out during 2007, saying the economics of offshore wind power had deteriorated markedly in the intervening years and they could not construct the extension at the original bid price, EUR 0.067/kWh.

Companies interested in taking over the project have until April 2 to hand in their bids for Rødsand II, which will be built in Baltic Sea waters between Denmark and Germany. It is to be online by September 30, 2011.

Dong is meantime on schedule with its 224 MW extension to Denmark's North Sea wind farm, Horns Rev. A total of 91 Siemens 2.3 MW turbines will join Dong's existing Vestas 2 MW machines that make up Horns Rev I. The expansion also includes three large research turbines with a combined capacity of 15 MW. All the machines are to be operational in 2009.

More government sponsored offshore wind power is on the way in Denmark, at least according to a government announcement late last month. It wants to see a further 400 MW online in 2012, either as two 200 MW projects or a single large one. The probable location for this third wave of Danish offshore wind power is the Kattegat Sea between the Danish mainland and Sweden.

Sweden scores

In Sweden, the 48 Siemens 2.3 MW turbines making up the 110 MW Lillgrund offshore wind farm off the west coast and just north of Denmark's main island of Zealand have been spinning since about Christmas, although the project was not officially online in 2007. In two short months, Lillgrund has generated one-third of the 330 GWh that owner Vattenfall estimates it should make in a year. A particularly windy January is the main reason why, says Vattenfall's wind projects manager, Anders Dahl. It was a good start for the SEK 1.8 billion (EUR 193 million) project, which took ten years to develop from start to finish.

It may be another ten years before Sweden sees its next truly offshore wind station, unless the government makes good on its promises to provide an entirely new support system to get the market going. A planned 30 MW of turbines in Lake Vänern may go ahead, but after that "it is pretty much stalled," says Swedish Windpower's Matthias Rapp. But if Sweden is to meet its EU target for increased renewable energy production, around 2500 MW of offshore wind is needed by 2020, adds Rapp.

Norway dreams

Perhaps it is due to Norway's seafaring past, or maybe the fact that Norway is used to getting its energy offshore in oil and gas fields, but while wind development on land has met with little enthusiasm in the country, the prospect of wind turbines at sea seems to have ignited the national imagination. Oil and energy Minister Åslaug Haga is representative of a conviction in Norway that offshore wind could make it a major exporter of green power.

A just released report from the Energi21 Commission believes that within two decades Norway should easily be generating 25 TWh from offshore wind plant. So far, however, efforts at developing the country's offshore resource are restricted to research of grandiose schemes for floating wind turbines at sea by the established energy companies. There is no roadmap to realising the vision of Norway as a major exporter of offshore wind.

"I try to explain this in terms of oil," says Øyvind Isachsen of Norway's wind association. "If we had land-based oil resources, wouldn't we take those first and then move to exploiting offshore? It's the same with wind."

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