Forced from nuclear to wind -- Swedish heavy industry

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One unexpected result of continuing high Scandinavian electricity prices is that a group of electricity intensive companies in forestry, steel, chemicals and mining have placed a big bet on wind power. Eight of the members of BasEl, a co-operative of nearly two dozen Swedish companies, have formed their own wind investment firm, called Vindin, and plan to sink SEK 4-5 billion (EUR 440-550 million) into ownership of about 150 turbines.

Within five years Vindin expects to be receiving up to 1 TWh of electricity from wind farms at various locations in Sweden, says the company's director, Anders Lyberg. That is more than the 0.8 TWh of wind power produced in Sweden in 2005.

The eight companies providing start-up capital are AGA, Boliden, Heidelberg Cement, Holmen, LKAB, Preem and SCA. They use 15-20 TWh of electric power each year, so wind power will meet up to 5% of their needs. Currently the group is seeking suitably windy sites for project development within their forest and mining assets. Most likely locations include Kiruna and Aitik in the north.

BasEl's director Peter Pernlöf says wind is not the consortium's first choice for generation. He would prefer to be putting money into new nuclear. "But wind's about the only thing allowed to be built in Sweden right now, so it is wind," Pernlöf says. BasEl supports a Russian plan to build a sea cable beneath the Baltic between Finland and Sweden to get planned Russian nuclear and other electric power to Scandinavia, having signed a power contract with Russia's United Power.

From the Swedish wind power association, Gunnar Fredriksson says BasEl's experience with wind power may well change its attitude. "They will find it so extremely satisfying that I'm sure they'll be making plans to build more," Fredriksson says. "At least that's my prediction."

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