First big North Sea plant draws near -- Vestas named as supplier

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Vestas Offshore is to join ABB and Smit International as partners in a consortium sponsored by Dutch company E-connection, which is currently applying for permits to develop six wind farms in Dutch coastal waters (Windpower Monthly, March 2000). Vestas Offshore is an offshoot of the Danish turbine manufacturer, Vestas. Smit International is a Dutch maritime services company and ABB's involvement, as well as financial, is in providing the electrical insfrastructure and grid connection.

According to E-connection's Mathieu Kortenoever, Vestas will be involved in the development of two 120 MW wind farms which look set to be given the go-ahead this October following completion of an environmental impact report. Finance for the project is to be arranged by the Fortis Bank, formerly known as MeesPierson, and ABB. MeesPierson has arranged project finance for a number of large wind farms in the US and was a major stakeholder in Vestas through the mid 1990s.

Depending on the findings of the environmental impact report, the wind plants will be located either in blocks Q4, Q12 or P12 on the coastal shelf at a depth of some 20 metres (map). With P12 lying 32 kilometres offshore, the consortium would prefer a Q4 or Q12 site some 23 kilometres from land.

Although the permit application process is still ongoing, Kortenoever is confident that the first two offshore power plants will be approved next month. This will mean that construction can begin in 2002, he says. Each will comprise 60 Vestas 2 MW units with 66 metre rotors, the type to start undergoing trials at the 4 MW Blyth offshore project in the UK.

For Vestas, the venture represents a major advance in the battle for the offshore market, for which all the major wind turbine companies have been developing technology. The Danish company has an option on four offshore projects -- each of some 1000 MW -- for which E-connection has requested permits. A dispute about the need for further environmental impact reports is holding up the application process, explains Kortenoever, but he is optimistic that they too will be given the green light shortly.

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