A co-operative success

Dutch wind energy development co-operative Zeeuwind officially opened its latest wind farm in September. Situated behind the dike at Greveling near Dreischor in the southern Dutch province of Zeeland, the park comprises four, 225 kW Vestas turbines from Denmark and is the seventh project to have been set up by the co-operative since its launch in 1988. It will generate sufficient power to meet the needs of the nearby villages of Dreischor, Zonnemaire, Schuddebeurs and Noordgouwe.

The NLG 2.5 million cost of the project was partly offset by a grant of NLG 765,000 from government agency NOVEM and a NLG 540,000 contribution from the national environmental action plan (MAP). It is the second largest project to be undertaken by the co-operative -- four 250 kW Micon 600 turbines at Kats near the Zeeland bridge, which came on line in March 1994, remain Zeeuwind's most ambitious venture to date.

According to Zeeuwind co-ordinator John Springer, the choice of Vestas for the Dreischor project was dictated primarily by considerations of reliability and efficiency. The same units have been in use since June 1995 at Zeeuwind's three-turbine project in Stavenisse and Springer says he is delighted with their performance: budgeted at 500,000 kWh per year per turbine, they each yielded 550,000 kWh in the first year of production. The Dreischor project's annual production is calculated at 2.2 million kilowatt hours, based on the performance of the turbines since their installation in June.

Since its foundation Zeeuwind, based in the southern Dutch town of Goes, has seen its annual energy output grow from 350,000 kWh in 1988 to roughly eight million kWh in 1996 -- enough to provide green electricity to some 10,000 Zeelanders and make Zeeuwind the largest of the 15 or so wind energy co-operatives currently active in the Netherlands.

Zeeuwind's good track record in wind development is due in no small part to its "bottom-up" approach to project development, according to Springer. Before embarking on a project, the co-operative draws up a thorough "inventory" of local interests to gauge the measure of public support. On this occasion, however, the Dreischor project ran into opposition from a local nature and bird watch society whose appeal against the project being granted a municipal permit resulted in a five month delay in construction and extra costs to the co-operative totalling an estimated NLG 25,000.

This is the first time that a Zeeuwind project has met with objections from environmentalists. The dispute was due in part to a breakdown in communication, Springer explains. "Next time we will have to do our homework better and double check with the local interest groups before giving the go ahead for work to begin," he says.

According to Springer, work on Zeeuwind's next project, a single 600 kW turbine installation near a nuclear reactor at Borssele, should begin at the end of the year. The co-operative has not yet decided on the type of turbine to be used. With a little luck, Zeeuwind could be celebrating the successful launch of eight projects in eight years.