Windpark Krammer: the largest citizens’ initiative

A unique wind farm is emerging around the Krammersluizen, with 34 wind turbines that have a total capacity of 102 megawatts. The initiators of this wind farm in and around the Krammersluizen are in fact the 4,800 members of the Zeeuwind and Deltawind cooperatives, making Windpark Krammer the largest citizens’ initiative of the Netherlands. Construction began in January 2017, and the wind farm should be operational next year. 

21 of the 34 wind turbines are already in position at Windpark Krammer, with a height of 125 meter and with 56 meter long rotor blades that weigh 26 tonnes. The turbine’s weight, including tower and foundation, equals 4,381 tonnes. Approximately 3,000 employees will work on the wind farm in the forthcoming period, an average of 200 people per day and 650 unique individuals each week. The ascending tower cranes are also striking features. There are only four of these cranes in Europe, three of these are presently used for constructing this wind farm. 95% of the wind farm’s power is sold to four multinationals, namely Google, AkzoNobel, DSM, and Philips, without intervention from an energy company. As Windpark Krammer is a citizens’ initiative, the consumer in this case supplies the industry.

Deltawind Cooperative
As a local cooperative, Deltawind also owns, alongside its share in Windpark Krammer, a total of 22 MW of installed wind capacity and a 0.85 MW solar farm. The cooperative currently has 2,500 members, all of them are inhabitants of the island. With wind farms Battenoert (40 million kWh per year) and Piet de Wit (43 million kWh per year), Deltawind is now already producing more than the electricity consumption of all the Goeree-Overflakkee households combined. Deltawind expects to build another 9 MW on the island in the years to come. This will bring the total for Goeree-Overflakkee, which Deltawind is focusing on, to a capacity of 225 MW. ‘We have completed this’, explains Deltawind Director Monique Sweep. ‘We will now target other parts of energy transition, such as collective solar roofs for private individuals. We will also be examining other forms of energy such as hydrogen and methane from seaweed, and storing energy at the Krammersluizen.’

Citizens’ cooperative Zeeuwind will also focus on storing energy. Zeeuwind has been around for some 30 years, and back in the days we started with three wind turbines. The cooperative counts 2,300 members, mainly private individuals. All of the 13 municipalities in Zeeland are members too, as well as several companies, associations, and foundations. The cooperative owns multiple wind farms, with a total capacity of 20 MW. Zeeuwind in the following years expects to double the total capacity with new projects and scaleups. An old turbine of one of the wind farms was replaced by a new one at the beginning of this year. This 2.3 MW turbine is expected to annually produce 3.9 million kWh. Zeeuwind also finances 25% of Windpark Bouwdokken, which is built on the dams of the former Bouwdokhavens on the Neeltje Jans production platform. These seven turbines have a capacity of 4.2 MW each, and have since early 2018 onwards jointly generated 112.5 million kWh of electricity per year.

Twenty-year old plan
Deltawind and Zeeuwind have already collaborated on a smaller scale, but the project on the Krammersluizen came into view in 2008. The cooperatives now together have 51% of the shares in Windpark Krammer. The remaining 49% is owned by turbine builder Enercon. The idea for the wind farm originated over two decades ago. According to Marten Wiersma, Chairman of the Zeeuwind supervisory board, the fact that it did not materialise back then is because the Rijkswaterstaat (Department of Waterways and Public Works), the owner of the land in those days, thought it was ‘a scary idea’ to build on top of a primary flood defence. ‘The wind turbines back then also had a capacity that was far too low, which made the grid connection far too costly. With the current scaleup and the turbines delivering more capacity, it can now be realised. So one of the most important innovations of this farm is that we are now building on a primary flood defence. This was a pilot project for Rijkswaterstaat. We had to demonstrate that the flood defence would not be affected. We have consequently created a basis, which in future might possibly open doors to other projects.’

The fact that most of the generated power goes to the four multinationals was a conscious decision. The supplied capacity may indeed soon suffice for 100,000 households, but as the members of the cooperatives do not purchase a lot of energy, these enterprises were important for completing the business case.

Windpark Krammer

Improved technology
The technology of wind turbines is still improving every day, along with their efficiency. Both cooperatives also noticed this at Windpark Krammer. ‘The turbines that we had ordered from Enercon for Windpark Krammer have in the meantime already been improved’, adds Wiersma. ‘The technology has improved to such an extent that they generate even more power. This often only concerns several percent, but when you generate a lot of energy, this soon adds up quite nicely. The blades, for instance, now fit seamlessly onto the housing, so that they catch a lot more wind. In the early days, we were content if a turbine managed 1,900 running hours annually, this number now often exceeds 3,000. The turbines are now also full of sensors, so everything can be remotely monitored. This allows for improved maintenance and less frequent turbine shutdowns.’

Sweep certainly noticed that the new wind farm is larger than other farms by the resistance it caused. ‘For nearly thirty years, we were able to just proceed with the smaller projects, but now we did meet some opposition. The opponents often express emotional arguments, rather than rational ones. The main argument is that wind turbines are unattractive and disrupt the landscape. We certainly understand these feelings, but there is not a lot we can do about this. You also frequently hear that the land owner makes a lot of money on the farm. This involves jealousy, another aspect that a developer cannot really do much about as the market determines the price of the land. You also hear people complaining about the lights of the wind turbines. This light is mandatory for heights over 150 metres, and we understand that it is pity when the countryside is no longer dark. We can do something about this though, and we will gladly address this aspect. We are therefore carrying out a pilot with lighting that works on radar. This involves the lights switching on only when something moves.’

A wind fund was established to meet the needs of the three surrounding municipalities and inhabitants within 2.5 kilometres around the wind farm, which is good for the annual distribution of EUR 150,000. Citizens in this case receive a discount on the energy bill for green power. One village asked for the money in one single payment. This money has now been used for installing solar panels on 186 residences in the village, more than 80% of all of the houses.

Bond loan
Although the financing was already lined up, the cooperatives via Windpark Krammer wanted to realise participatory opportunities for members and for the near surroundings. A bond loan was hence issued. According to Sweep, citizens have different reasons for participating in the cooperatives’ wind farms. ‘It is partially about people wanting to do something in energy transition, though another important reason is the good interest rate of 6% that we give on the bond loan issued for Windpark Krammer.’ The bond loan was supervised by the Netherlands Authority for the Financial Markets (AFM), which was a novelty for the cooperatives. There was a strong interest in the loan, which was substantially overwritten by 232%.

Another challenge in constructing the Windpark Krammer was the fact that the farm is located amidst Natura 2000 areas. The movements of birds in the area was therefore already considered in both the farm’s design and the positioning of the wind turbines. ‘We have furthermore taken ample measures, including additional ones,’ adds Sweep. ‘We created a swallow bank, and the turbines are provided with bird and bat detectors. The wind turbines are hereby halted when bats are active or when birds are nearby. Anything so as to cause the least damage to nature.’

When asked if the two cooperatives also want to start developing wind farms at sea, both Sweep and Wiersma answer in the negative. ‘We never had the intention to build at sea’, states Wiersma. ‘We are developers of projects that would otherwise never be launched. We are not needed at sea.’ Text & photos: Erik van Huizen

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