Inland sites still only marginal

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Despite a steady fall in costs over the last few years wind turbine ownership in the densely populated German land of North Rhine Westfalia (NRW) is still not profitable without federal or state support, a new report claims. Buried in the heart of Europe, NRW is not blessed with good winds and the premium renewable energy feed in tariff (REFIT) of nearly DEM 0.17/kWh is at least DEM 0.05/kWh too low to cover costs, says the report.

Operators need DEM 0.22/kWh for their power to make wind turbine ownership viable, according to the report, "Windenergie in Nordrhein-Westfalen -- Praxisergebnisse 1997," undertaken by Ingenieur-Werkstatt Energietechnik (IWT). There is some good news, however. Since 1996 the profit gap has been closed by DEM 0.02/kWh -- overall costs for installing a wind turbine in NRW have fallen by as much as 30% over six years.

Last year, the combined average costs of an entire wind installation, including grid connection, was DEM 780 per square metre of rotor swept area, down from DEM 1075/m2 in 1991, writes IWT. Significantly, both grid connection and "other" costs halved between 1993 and 1997, to DEM 35/m2 and DEM 66/m2 respectively.

The hardware, however, was more expensive in 1997. Between 1991 and 1996 the average price of wind turbines fell from DEM 879/m2 to DEM 660/m2, but last year it rose to DEM 680/m2. Eight of the turbines which made up the 81 MW of new capacity in NRW in 1997 were megawatt turbines. The large scale technology may have contributed to the rise in price.

The REFIT rate is linked to the price of power to end consumers. The Electricity Price Supervisory Office in the neighbouring land of Lower Saxony is predicting that liberalisation of the electricity market will lead to falling prices, possibly by as much as 1% a year. If that is the case, the REFIT could fall below DEM 0.153/kWh by 2004.

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