Confident but no sign of offshore construction rush -- Netherlands and Belgium still thinking

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Once again, developers of offshore projects in neighbouring countries Netherlands and Belgium did not see any installations last year, but they are hopeful that things will start sailing in 2005.

The first likely project to go up in Dutch or Belgian waters is the 120 MW WP Q7 project off the Netherlands' coast. Mathieu Kortenoever of developer E-connection is "confident that we will see some activity." A deal is still pending that would transfer the project's development rights to the Utrecht-based Econcern group.

Construction work on the Netherlands' 99 MW Nearshore Windfarm (NSW) -- by Dutch power company Nuon and oil giant Shell for a site eight kilometres off the coast of Egmond -- is planned for next year. Supplier contracts are not yet finalised, says Nuon.

Work on Belgium's 60 turbine Thornton Bank wind farm will also begin in 2006 at the earliest, says Filip Martens of C-Power, a consortium of power companies and financial institutions. Sited some 32 kilometres off the port of Zeebrugge, the project financing was set back by legislative uncertainty surrounding the responsibility for grid connection (Windpower Monthly, January 2005). This issue has now been resolved in draft legislation in which the federal government has ruled that Elia may raise EUR 25 million of the cabling costs through transmission charges. Elia will be required to buy the power of the first 216 MW of any wind farm built on Thornton Bank for a guaranteed EUR 107/MWh for 20 years. This legislation must be passed by the end of this month for construction to happen in 2006, says Martens.

More on the way

Back in the Netherlands, observers expect a number of new proposals following a decision by economics minister Laurens Jan Brinkhort to end a 2001 moratorium on licensing new offshore wind farms. The moratorium was introduced to prevent a wild west situation with developers claiming large areas without projects resulting. A solution has not materialised, however, and the ministry has decided to allocate licenses on a first come, first served basis.

"For decades we've had legislation for building offshore -- for oil rigs and so on -- and that has now been made applicable to wind farms," says Diederik Samsom, renewables specialist for the opposition Labour party (PvdA). "I know that a number of parties are currently working on [different] proposals."

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