Double boost for Norwegian wind -- Approvals for 250 MW

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Two major utility projects amounting to nearly 250 MW of new wind capacity for Norway have cleared an early permitting hurdle with approval from the national energy commission. Depending on whether 2 MW or 3 MW turbines are used, Nord-Trondelag Elektrisitetsverk (NTE) is planning to build a 34 MW or 45 MW facility at Naeroy, Hundhammerfjellet. The second approval is for a big 200 MW power plant at Kvitfjell, Tromsø, by Statkraft Grøner Tromsø and Norsk Miljøkraft.

NTE's Kurt Benonisen says the company would prefer to use 15, 3 MW turbines for the Naeroy project rather than 17, 2 MW units. If NTE can use 3 MW machines, annual electricity production of 160 GWh is expected compared to 120 GWh using 2 MW turbines.

Supply contracts have yet to be discussed, although NTE will be testing a Scanwind 3 MW prototype from this month. The prototype is a direct-drive turbine with a permanent magnet generator and frequency converter. A second 3 MW turbine with a gear box will be tested in September. Once a decision is made on which technology to use, says Benonisen, prototypes will be erected on site towards the end of the year, with the aim being to install the entire plant in late 2004, possibly 2005.

Norway, where 99% of the 130.6 TWh of electricity output in 2002 came from hydro power, is in dire need of new generation following a dry winter and resulting shortages of electricity. The government is aiming for 3 TWh of wind power to be feeding into the grid by 2010. Power prices on the deregulated Scandinavian power market reached historic high levels in the winter as a result of the shortages, causing severe fuel poverty. In connection with the granting of the wind plant approvals, the oil and energy ministry department said: "The department considers it important to get industrial investment in wind power established in Norway and the building of the Hundhammerfjellet wind park is a central link in such investment."

Kvitfjell closer

Meanwhile, Statkraft and Norsk Miljøkraft's (NMK) plans for 80, 2.5 MW turbines at Kvitfjell moved a step closer to realisation with the energy commission's nod of approval. The plant is expected to producing some 600 GWh of electricity annually. NMK will manage the project as the financing round gets underway.

Statkraft Grøner Tromsø's Truls Eidem says, "Once the finance is in place, we will start building the plant next year, so hopefully it will be in operation by 2005. However, we need two summers to complete the work so it is possible the final completion date could be put back until 2006."

Statkraft is critical of the length of time it takes projects to get off the ground in Norway. "There are many good projects in the planning stages but although the government energy agency is helpful and tends to process applications as quickly as it can, we are hampered continually by other groups looking to undermine the industry. The government has stated that it wants more wind power but the environmental lobbyists often make it too difficult to carry out plans," says Eidem.

There are no market incentives provided by the government in Norway, although grants can be made for new plants. Statkraft and NMK have approached ENOVA, the state renewables agency, for 10% of the capital cost, around NKK 140 million, arguing that over the next two years the wind project could provide between 300 and 400 new jobs. The companies have also hinted that they will look for investors outside Norway for the project.

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