Green light on one link gives hope -- North Sea offshore cables

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The logjam of German offshore wind projects in the North Sea waiting for permission to lay cables to shore may be freeing up. Multikabel has won a permit to install cables through a section of the protected Wattenmeer wetlands to the coast of Schleswig-Holstein. The cable stretch, one of the links needed by the 400 MW Nördlicher Grund project, has been authorised by the Schleswig-Holstein state permitting authority to run to Büsum near the Brunsbüttel nuclear power station.

Multikabel, however, still needs a further permit from the federal shipping office for the stretch of cable lying within the 12 nautical-mile zone -- and must then secure permission for the onshore route to the grid connection point. The company, owned by the Nördlicher Grund project developers, Geo and Renergys, is hopeful of quick decisions. The cable permission is welcome news for other developers with plans in the region. In all, 14 potential routes to shore were examined, taking into account the needs of an additional three offshore projects.

Waiting game

Cable permitting is slower in neighbouring Lower Saxony's jurisdiction. The 231 MW Borkum Riffgrund project is just one casualty of the delay, says developer Plambeck Neue Energien, partnered by Danish energy company Energi E2. "Procedures have been ongoing for about three-and-a-half years. We are waiting in the starting blocks, all the tendering documents are ready to go out," says the company's Reiner Heinsohn. "We are twiddling thumbs and money is being burnt while we wait."

Competitor Energiekontor is also waiting for cable permits for its permitted 80 turbine Borkum Riffgrund West project. But the delay "is not holding us up," says the company's Cerstin Lange. Energiekontor expects to lay a cable across the island of Nordeney, reaching the mainland at Hilgenriedersiel in the rural district of Aurich -- the same route chosen by Plambeck and a series of further offshore projects in the area. Energiekontor hopes to begin construction of Borkum Riffgrund West in 2008.

The Nordeney cable route, with a transmission capacity of around 3 GW, is included in draft regional planning from June 2005 still under consideration by a Lower Saxony parliamentary committee. "We can't say with certainty when the consultation process will be completed," says Christian Schwarzenholst, energy policy expert at the Lower Saxony environment ministry.

Off the Baltic Sea coast of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, progress with offshore cable permitting is mixed. Two routes have been identified, with approval for connection of the 400 MW Kriegers Flak 1 project nearly in the bag. A permit for the cable route outside the 12 mile limit was granted together with a project construction permit by the federal shipping office in April 2005. A decision on the remainder of the route, which hits the shore near Rostock, is expected within two months.


The second Baltic Sea route, designed to serve both the planned 400 MW Arcona Becken Südost and 150 MW Ventotec Ost 2 projects, "is more problematic," says Helmuth von Nicolai at the state development ministry. Within the 12 nautical-mile zone, obstacles to be negotiated include protected areas, rock formations, wrecks of ships sunk around 1717 during the Sweden-Prussia war (almost a national monument), and thousands of poison gas canisters sunk near Peenemunde in 1945 at the end of the Second World War. "It's taken two years to find a suitable corridor," says Von Nicolai.

A proposed Russian-German Baltic Sea gas pipeline, earmarked for commissioning in 2010, may also conflict with the offshore electricity cable.

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