Denmark still showing its neighbours the way -- Offshore in Scandinavia

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With an eye to the UN's major climate change conference in Copenhagen at the end of the year, the Danish government and parliament are looking to offshore wind power to make up for the past eight years of virtually no wind development on land. Two new offshore plant are to come on line before December: a 209 MW expansion of the existing 160 MW Horns Rev wind farm in the Danish North Sea and a 21 MW project of seven Vestas 3 MW turbines in the Great Belt between the western and eastern halves of the country, only recently announced. Horns Rev II, now under construction, is using Siemens 2.3 MW turbines, a departure from the Vestas 2 MW units used in the existing wind farm.

Next year will see more offshore activity in Denmark when Rødsand II, a 207 MW extension of the existing Rødsand wind farm off Nysted, in Baltic Sea waters south of Denmark, is to come online, again using Siemens 2.3 MW turbines as at Rødsand I. The offshore wind development industry is also warming up to bid for Denmark's next major offshore project, a 400 MW facility the government wants built in the middle of the Kattegat Sea not far from the small island of Anholt between western Denmark and Sweden. A call for proposals is to be issued by July, the winner to be made public in the first half of 2010, and the project is to be in operation by 2012.

As with Denmark's earlier government-sponsored offshore projects, companies responding to the call must bid with the price they want for their offshore electricity production over a specific period. The development concession will go to the consortium bidding the cheapest price. This time, however, the winner will face penalties if it gives up the project, as happened with Rødsand II, which was sent to a new round of bidding when one after the other Dong Energy and E.ON backed away from it. E.ON won the concession the second time around with a higher bid.

Denmark's combined offshore wind capacity has stood still at just over 400 MW since Rødsand I came on line in 2003. It is one of six wind plant built off the Danish coast, starting in 1991 with a 5 MW project of 11 turbines which are still running. Of the 400 MW, 390 MW was built this decade.

Sweden stalls

In Sweden, Denmark's large neighbour to the east, at least some plans for offshore development are falling victim to the global economic uncertainty, compounded by the government's u-turn last month on its long held policy to phase out nuclear power in the country. With the door now open to new nuclear, utility Vattenfall has put development of its planned Krieger's Flak, Taggen, and Trolleboda offshore wind farms, with a combined planned capacity of over 1 GW, on hold. It is instead turning its attention to long term planning for a new nuclear reactor.

This will leave the utility's 110 MW operational Lillgrund wind farm as its only Swedish offshore project for some time and Sweden's overall operating offshore capacity at 134 MW, which includes two 10 MW projects and one 3 MW plant built between 1998 and 2002 using GE and Vestas turbines. The SEK 1.8 billion (EUR 193 million) Lillgrund wind farm of 48 Siemens 2.3 MW turbines officially came online last year after becoming operational in 2007. It took Vattenfall ten years to develop and complete the project from start to finish. Last year the turbines generated 324 GWh, enough for nearly 60,000 homes, but falling just short of Vattenfall's annual goal for the plant of 330 GWh.


As well as the revival of nuclear as an option, the government has raised its renewables generation target from 10 TWh a year by 2015 to 30 TWh by 2020, with offshore wind expected to contribute around 10 TWh and onshore wind most of the rest. For Vattenfall's offshore retreat to be temporary, the government is under pressure to beef up its support system to get the utility and other developers back in the game. Vattenfall's Anders Dahl says the purchase price for offshore wind generation and direct aid need to be raised by around 30% for the company to reconsider its withdrawal along with support for the required transmission lines to get the power to shore.

Other offshore developers agree, including those behind the 108-turbine Stora Middel-grund project, owned by Universal Wind Offshore and granted approval by the Swedish government last year. Slated for the Kattegat Sea between Sweden and Denmark, the project can only go ahead if the government pays for grid connection and offers a purchase price for the electricity of EUR 12-15/MWh, say Universal's two Swedish partners, Ola Gjervall and Björn Algkvist. Matthias Rapp of industry organisation Swedish Wind Energy is hopeful the government will come good. "We've been heard on each of our points," he says. "That creates a belief in the future for our members and everyone involved in the wind industry."

Norway hopes

Prospective Norwegian offshore wind developers, with plans for at least 1.55 GW between them but no market support from government, are hoping this is the year their dreams can come closer to reality. An offshore wind development roadmap prior to legislation will be published by June, promises the government. Acting on that news, power company Troms Kraft is the latest to make public its intention to build an offshore wind farm, announcing a 250-turbine project off the coast of Karlsøy in the north.

From the Norwegian wind energy association, Øyvind Isachsen welcomes the plan, but fears the government is bewitched by the idea of wind power export dollars defraying future losses from dwindling oil and gas exports; it may be trying to run before it can walk, he says. Norway has a theoretical offshore potential of 14,000 TWh a year and could be generating 25 TWh offshore within two decades, according to the Energi21 commission. Oil and gas minister Terje Riis-Johansen has repeatedly said that Norwegian offshore wind power could be sold south to countries struggling to meet targets under the EU's renewable energy directive. Norway is not a member of the EU.

Meantime, the government plans to spend EUR 11.4 million this year on the StatoilHydro Hywind floating wind turbine demonstration project, to be anchored near Karmøy. It is the only wind plant expected online in Norway this year.

Estonia waves

East across the water from Sweden, Estonia is the only one of the trio of Baltic Sea states lining the coast between Poland and Russia to be considering offshore wind power. But a promised offshore policy failed to emerge from government last year and hopes for a 1 GW offshore project in the Gulf of Riga were dashed. Proposed by Eesti Energia, Estonia's main utility, the project was rejected by the environment ministry. Plans for the 200-turbine Hiiumaa offshore project, mooted by local developer 4Energia in 2006, are also in jeopardy after opposition was stirred up by another developer, Canada's Greta Energy, for both on and offshore development in the same area. The environment ministry's decision is awaited.

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