Offshore project sent back to start -- Backgammon at sea

Belgian consortium Seanergy hopes to begin building its 100 MW offshore wind farm in late spring after it resubmits its application for an environmental permit under new procedural rules. Once Seanergy completes the additional environmental studies required and the application has been processed, the plans will once more be open for public consultation, returning the project to the starting blocks. "It is exactly the same project, so we expect to see opposition from exactly the same quarters as last time," says Seanergy's Thierry Slaegeman.

Earlier this year, Seanergy -- comprising Belgian power generator Electrabel and construction concern Jan de Nul -- saw its initial application rejected on a technicality by Belgium's supreme administrative court. Construction work on the EUR 220 million project was originally scheduled to begin last April and the delay has now cost the consortium some EUR 17 million in penalty payments to contractors, says Slaegeman.

Meanwhile, the C-Power consortium -- headed by Interelectra and Dredging International -- has submitted all six of the necessary permit applications for its 300 MW "far shore" wind farm on Thornton Bank some 27 to 30 kilometres off the coast near Ostend. "If the government observes the schedule for processing the applications, we expect to begin generating power in September 2005," says C-Power's Filip Martens.

The consortium is aiming to finalise finance by February and to begin the geological survey of the sand bank, which lies at a depth of some 16 metres. The 24 turbines and an offshore transformer station will be built and connected in 2005.