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People say no to second offshore plant in Baltic

Plans for Germany's first offshore wind plant have been given a resolute thumbs-down by the small health resort of Graal-Müritz. Around 70 people from the parish, which numbers no more than 2000 citizens, attended a public meeting on January 27, called by the town mayor to discuss the proposed wind farm off the coast of Rostock. Their resounding "no" at the end of the meeting was despite a major reduction in the size of the project from 180, 1 MW wind turbines, to just 10-12 machines in a pilot project.

Although the project has been proposed for federal waters -- over which the federal transport ministry has the final say -- its seems unlikely that the feelings of Graal-Müritz will be ignored. It was heavy handed treatment of the community by the energy sector which fouled the waters in the first place. After German unification, a consortium of west German electric utilities bulldozed through plans for a 500 MW coal fired power station west of Rostock -- on a site upwind of Graal-Müritz. Clouds from the station's 140 metre high cooling tower will now continually waft over the beach of the seaside resort. For a community earning its livelihood from tourism and as a health cure resort, this is a daunting prospect.

Having been force-fed with the coal plant, Graal-Müritz has dug in its heels and refuses to allow Rostock to dump another large power plant on its doorstep. Alarm bells first sounded after a preliminary study of the offshore project by Hamburg wind consultant Hans-Dieter Gosslich was published in March 1993. It indicated that the most economic siting of the turbines was just 100 metres from the shore. This was illustrated so effectively by a photomontage in the local newspaper in September 1993 that the inhabitants of Graal-Müritz were horrified by the prospect. The turbines appeared to have hardly got their feet wet, installed in what would normally be considered the non-swimmer shallows. From that point on the barricades were up, despite later assurances that 1 MW turbines would be placed at least three kilometres from the shore and there would be no more than 20 of them.

The project's proposers have now decided to start at square one again, with a far better approach to public relations. This time the local community will be asked its opinion from the start. More work will also be done into studying the effects of a wind plant on the local seabed topography.

Project consultant, Christiansen, Nielsen and Partner (CNP) of Copenhagen in Denmark, is determined to be involved in an offshore wind farm, whether near Graal-Müritz or elsewhere. The company's Steen Christiansen says: "The Danish philosophy is that opposition to a project is part and parcel of development and must be accepted and worked through." He also points to the example of the island of Rügen to the east, where extreme resistance to wind power development has gradually dwindled.

CNP has set about founding a project development company in which Wind Consult of Rostock and the Danish utility Sjællandske Kraftværker have agreed to become involved. Christiansen says CNP would like to see a joint Danish/German offshore wind project, perhaps involving some of the partners currently laying an undersea high voltage cable from Denmark to Rostock. This is a joint project between German utility Veag and Sjællandske Kraftværker. Christiansen believes it may be possible to feed electricity from the offshore station into the cable, allowing the electricity generated to be delivered to either Denmark or Germany.

The possibility of delivering to Denmark could be an important factor in getting the project off the ground. If the electricity is delivered to onshore Germany, the Electricity Feed Law will force local utility Hevag to buy it at about DEM 0.1654/kWh, the current price for renewables set by the federal government. Hevag would have to apply for permission to raise its electricity prices to pay for so much wind power. It might not be allowed to do so as the law obliges utilities to supply power at a reasonable price and Hevag also has obligations to its shareholders. Christiansen believes an offshore wind plant could supply power at DEM 0.125/kW. If Denmark will foot the bill, Hevag will have no grounds for objecting to the scheme.

German industrial giant, Thyssen Rheinstahl, has also expressed interest in the scheme. It markets wind turbines from Danish company Nordtank. Thyssen's Hans-Bruno Ripkens comments, however, that the project is fraught with political problems.

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