Those are the conditions at Horns Rev, an area of relatively shallow water 14 kilometres west of the Danish town of Esbjerg in the North Sea. Here electricity company Elsam has just finished erecting the first of 80, Vestas 2 MW turbines. The unit will go into operation next month while work continues on driving in monopile foundations and mounting tower sections, nacelles and rotors for the remaining 79 machines. From November the entire wind facility -- which Vestas characterises as a 160 MW power station -- will provide electricity for 150,000 houses, corresponding to 2% of Denmark's electricity consumption.
Once Horns Rev is up and running, Elsam will immediately turn its attention to the next generation of turbines and install three, 3 MW units at the port of Frederikshavn in the far north of Denmark. Elsam has ordered the first of the three from Vestas, but declines to reveal who will supply the remaining two.
With experience of both megawatt wind turbine technology and mega-wind plant operation, Elsam has its sights set on becoming a major commercial player in the international wind business, an ambition the company's Flemming Thomsen makes no secret of. Technical experience is only one part of the story, however. Controlling and understanding the economic and environmental consequences of offshore wind plants is also a key success factor. "Of course we'll share our experience with the first truly offshore wind farm, but in a commercial situation, we'll use our knowledge with a view to our future business," says Thomsen.
Elsam owns six conventional power plants in Denmark. Following the partial liberalisation of its electricity market, Elsam has trimmed its organisation, increasing turnover from EUR 565.4 million in 2000 to EUR 767.3 million in 2001, while turning a deficit of EUR 23 million into a EUR 93 million profit.
Market liberalisation has also allowed Elsam to start expanding outside Denmark's borders, where the company is hoping to build combined heat and power plants (cogeneration), biomass plants and wind farms -- both on shore and offshore. Elsam is developing its first 300 MW wind station, together with Shell Renewables and Celt Power, in the Irish Sea. The plant will be operating by 2005.
Elsam boss Peter Høstgaard-Jensen has also repeated the company's willingness to bid for the three offshore wind farms that were to have been built by the Danish state as the last in a series of five demonstration projects, of which Horns Rev is the first. Denmark's previous government, with Svend Auken as environment minister, decided to put the final three out to open tender, ostensibly to speed up their development and cut costs (Windpower Monthly, November 2001). The projects are planned for sites near the island of Læsø in the Kattegat Sea, and at Omø Stålgrunde and Gedser in Denmark's southerly waters.
But Elsam's bid is conditional on the long awaited introduction of a market for green credit trade in Denmark, or some other form of financing recognising the carbon emission credits generated by wind turbines along with their kilowatt hours. Høstgaard-Jensen is confident that a political solution to this problem will emerge within the next three years. At that point Elsam will be ready to build new wind facilities with the dimensions of power stations, also in Denmark, he says.