Norwegian windpower reported ready to boom

"Last country in the world" to develop wind power planning 50 coastal wind farms

About 50 wind farms are planned along the Norwegian coast, according to reports in Norwegian newspapers today. Construction of the first, with five turbines, is to start in the new year at Lindesnes, the most southerly point on the Norwegian mainland, and is expected to be completed by the autumn.

There is some scepticism, however, that progress in building more farms will be as swift as the most optimistic reports suggest. "Researchers are still studying wind speed and patterns, looking for the best sites," Sjur Rosholt of Statkraft, the state power company, told ENDS Daily. "We're planning to build a 40MW park ourselves -- but we don't even know where it's going to be yet, and the govt has yet to decide on incentives."

With cheap hydropower supplying virtually all of its electricity, Norway is "probably the last country in the world to look into wind," Rosholt added.

Depending on local conditions, the largest of the parks under consideration could comprise 25-50 turbines of at least 600 kW capacity, delivering a combined power output to cover the needs of 5-10,000 homes. The Danish company Vestas, the world's biggest producers of windpower machinery with 25% of the world market, is reported to be planning half a dozen parks of this size at a cost of NKr230-250m (Ecu29-31m) each. The Norwegian engineering giant Kværner, which has been working on windpower in Norway and Sweden since 1975, plans "to compete with the Danes, here and abroad," in the words of director Rolf Kvamsdal.

Kværner says it will produce windmills with a three megawatt output, twice as powerful as the largest planned by Vestas. Kværner's technology is already capable of producing power for US$0.035 (Ecu0.031) per kilowatt-hour, Kvamsdal adds. About 2.8 cents per kW/h would make windmills competitive with most hydroelectric plants.

The Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Administration (NVE), the relevant licensing authority, confirms it has received a number of applications for wind farms. Several local electricity generators are planning larger-scale windpower tests this year.

Despite its ideal climate and terrain, Norway currently has no more than twelve wind turbines in operation, compared with 4,000 in Denmark Environmentalists estimate Norway's windpower potential at about 12TWh/yr, roughly a tenth of its average hydropower output.

Heidi Sørensen, head of the Norwegian Society for the Conservation of Nature, was widely quoted earlier this year when she said: "The total amount of money allocated to windpower research in the past 17 years equals the sum invested in the oil sector during the first 17 hours of 1996."

Follow Up:
Statkraft, tel: +47 67 57 70 00. Kværner, tel: +47 67 51 30 00; NVE, tel: +47 22 95 95 95.

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