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Only qualified offshore support -- Dutch environmentalists

The Dutch environmental movement has given unanimous, if conditional, support to large scale wind development in the North Sea. In a position statement entitled Frisse Zeewind (A Fresh Sea Breeze) the Stichting Noordzee (North Sea Association) urges the Netherlands' new right wing, pro-nuclear government to give full support to wind power, both on and offshore. The association is an alliance of nine influential environmental organisations.

"We are giving a positive signal to the government and wind developers to get on with the job," says the association's Michel Langendijk. But the group insists that before large scale construction takes place there should be careful research into the environmental impact of offshore wind power development. "In Frisse Zeewind we link the promotion of wind energy with a careful approach. This will guarantee continuing public support for wind energy and ensure that green power really is green."

Caution is urged in the short term: "In the next few years a lot of research is needed, after which the process can be accelerated," says the association. In particular it is calling for the identification of "preferred areas" and careful research into the "barrier effect" of large scale wind farms and also the effect of vibrations on fish and other marine life.

Greenpeace unhappy

If the government follows these proposals, the environmental organisations believe the national target of 6000 MW offshore by 2020 can be reached -- and even bettered in a "responsible fashion." Greenpeace Nederland, however, is sceptical about this claim and has not signed the document, despite being responsible for much of the text.

"We don't believe the Frisse Zeewind vision is radical enough," says Greenpeace's Ruud van Leeuwen. "We believe that the sooner we build large scale wind farms in the North Sea the better. If we spend years looking at the environmental impact we have no chance of hitting the preliminary target of 3000 MW by 2012. The environmental impact of individual farms is always reversible. The environmental impact of climate change isn't."

Greenpeace welcomes Frisse Zeewind's recognition of the importance of replacing fossil fuels, but it is opposed to the idea of preferred areas. The pressure group is in the process of testing the government's policy on offshore planning through an application to build its own wind farm outside one of the designated areas. "After being put on hold, the application was eventually rejected by the government, and we are currently appealing against the decision," says Van Leeuwen.

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