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Offshore only AN interim step

From Dr. Thyge Weller, Fair Energy, Unterfoehring, Germany

Congratulations on your January issue leader "Brawn with Balance." Once more you hit a point which is only too true but which is seldom, if at all, discussed within the wind energy community. One of those rare heart-warming articles where one thinks in reading "why does (s)he so exactly know what I am feeling."

With reference to your report on the cost of offshore wind power, however ("The future is offshore, January 2002); while I fully agree with its content, I take issue with the headline. I would have preferred: "The next phase of wind energy's future is offshore." I believe that in the long term, very large terrestrial wind farms are the way to go. Offshore is nice, but it is an interim step. It is an escape solution aimed at finding new windy sites in countries with financial support systems. Rather expensive, but at the moment the best way to go.

In regions where wind energy is competitive without support and/or subsidies (and therefore no additional support will be granted within the EU), wind energy will leave offshore and move to the Great Plains, Morocco, Egypt, and other windy places with large areas of available land.

My statements are with the long term in mind -- ten years or more. In the long term, it is always the most cost effective solution which wins in a free market. Nobody has yet proved, to my knowledge, that the entire life-cycle costs of an offshore wind power station can be lower than those of a very large "industrial" terrestrial wind station.

Looking at today's gas and oil system, we see that transmitting power over long distances has never been a problem when the production cost is low enough. It's all a money game, and I have an uncomfortable feeling that distant offshore wind plant will turn out to be more expensive than we think today. Near-offshore may be fine, but there are few sites available.

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