More subsidies breed hope

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After nearly two years of sluggish wind power development in Sweden, a boom is expected in 1998 following the government's approval of a new round of subsidies. Applications for subsidy for more than 50 new wind projects were submitted within days of the country's new energy law coming into effect on February 15.

Subsidies are available as part of the country's new energy law for 15% of a wind project's investment. The legislation was tied up for months in talks -- and Sweden also needed the approval of the European Commission before it could favour one energy source.

More confusion was created by Sweden's energy authority, NUTEK. Last year it started processing applications for new wind projects with the aim of speeding up the subsidy allocation process once the new energy law was passed. But in the autumn, NUTEK did an about turn, announcing that projects begun before the EC's approval would be disqualified for subsidy. Several large projects in the pipeline were postponed, no contracts could be signed, and tenders passed their deadline.

The result was that only 17 MW of wind power was installed in Sweden last year -- much of it in late December. This is only half of that installed in 1996, when a previous subsidy programme expired mid-year (Windpower Monthly, February 1997). Wind power capacity in Sweden is now close to 120 MW.

Danish manufacturers continue to dominate the market, though German Enercon has a strong foothold (table). Regionally, almost half of the country's generating capacity has been installed on the west coast, followed by some 30 MW on the large island of Gotland to the east and 25 MW in the southern state of Skåne, with most of the remainder on the island of Öland to the southeast. While Swedish companies have not managed to develop a competitive wind power turbine, the country's main wind firm, Nordic Windpower, has two prototypes running -- a 400 kW and a 1 MW machine. Norway's Kvaerner has also been testing its 3 MW prototype on Gotland.

With the passage of the new energy law, regional authorities have been designating areas which should be used for wind power in the "national interest." This has added to the current optimism for wind in Sweden. The law has also established the Swedish National Energy Administration (SNEA), an authority with the specific task of phasing out nuclear energy.

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