Two offshore wind projects are being proposed for German waters. One is intended as an addition to the industrial area of the huge port of Wilhelmshaven. The other is to place wind turbines on a series of planned coastal protection dams planned off the island of Sylt in the North Sea. The generated energy should help pay for building and maintenance of the dams.

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Two off-shore wind projects are being proposed for German waters. The first is intended as an addition to the industrial clutter of the huge port of Wilhelmshaven while the second -- a scheme to site wind turbines on a series of planned offshore breakwaters -- could help pay for some much needed coastal protection off the island of Sylt.

The Wilhelmshaven offshore wind farm is the brainchild of engineering office LUV Wind-Energie of Wardenburg/Oldenburg. A site has been found on the western side of the port's shipping channel for 27, 1-1.5 MW wind turbines in two groupings at a cost of about DEM 100 million. LUV expects to co-operate with a wind turbine manufacturer on the project and will probably elicit other partners. The initial proposal contains details for a Danish Vestas 1.5 MW turbine. LUV hopes to have the wind station operating by 2000 when Wilhelmshaven is to provide the external exhibition site for a trade fair, EXPO 2000 in Hannover. LUV says the site -- offshore between Voslappe and Hooksiel -- appears ideal. Grid infrastructure is already in place, thanks to the nearby Wilhelmshaven coal power station, and the site is outside both the Wattenmeer National Park and the shipping lanes. The area is also industrialised, with a large oil terminal lying just south.

The first hearing for the offshore proposal took place in November and LUV is now preparing planning documents required by the Weser-Ems regional government. Unfortunately, though, there is one serious drawback. For the past two years, the Wilhelmshaven Port Industry Federation has had its eye on the same site as part of an area for a major extension of the port's facilities. Federation managing director, Detlef Weide, promises that opposition to the wind farm will be considerable. Harbour business increased by 8% in 1994 and land is urgently needed for expansion.

Such major construction, however, would take 30-50 years to complete -- and only if the necessary DEM 1 billion can be found. Weide remains unperturbed. "Our board has decided to ignore the wind plan. If we were to consider it, this could signal that we are not serious with our own plans for the new Jade port," he says.

LUV's attitude to the clash of interests is in stark contrast to Weide's. The company's Reinhard Vöhringer advocates co-operation to find a way of combining both uses for the site. "It is not our intention to prevent an expansion of the port," he says. The port authorities could also become co-owners and operators of the wind plant -- allowing it to supply electricity to the port and thus become part of it. Since the region has been designated for port industry use by the regional government, that solution could make everybody happy.

Last month, an approach by LUV to the federation was immediately cold shouldered, although the back door was left open a chink. The federation added a final comment to its refusal to enter discussions: "We may, if necessary, take up your courteous offer later." Meanwhile information staff at Wilhelmshaven town council admit that with the German wind institute DEWI based in the town, it makes sense to think about the offshore wind station plan.

Second offshore plan

Further up Germany's North Sea coast, experts have been puzzling for years over the best way to stop serious erosion of the coast of the island of Sylt. Huge chunks of land disappear each year, but any solution has seemed too big and expensive a job. Now it seems that wind turbines could help. The German coastal protection association, DKV of Westerland/Sylt has put forward plans developed over the last five years for the construction of massive arc-shaped dams to carry up to 81 wind turbines. These dams, curving from the ends of the island into the sea, would be up to 100 metres wide, eight metres high and ten kilometres long. The DKV argues that sale of electricity generated by the wind turbines would make a considerable financial contribution to the construction of the dams. Where possible, the movement of water in and out of the arcs could also be utilised as tidal power, it also suggests.

At the moment coastal protection costing around DEM 20 million a year takes the form of simply tipping sand back on the coast and stabilising the dunes and beaches with sand bags or artificial membrane material. But this provides no lasting protection and threatens to pollute the coast with non biodegradable materials. The DKV comments: "There is no point in tipping millions into the water for no other purpose than feeding that giant energy converter, the North Sea, if this energy can be used. And there is no point in fitting the sand with a PVC suit when this will simply increase the existing [ecological] burdens on the sea."

The first construction phase involving the building of three dams from the Ellenbogen List -- with their sand depot, wind turbines and tidal power plant -- would take five years and cost around DEM 300 million, estimates the DKV. The second phase, more dams with wind turbines at the other end of the island, Odde Hörnum, is expected to cost DEM 200 million. The remaining two construction phases, which do not involve wind power, would cost a further DEM 400 million.

The DKV anticipates that state aid for coastal protection of around DEM 10 million would continue to be paid, so that for the first construction phase, DEM 240 million would have to be raised privately. Income from the wind turbines and tidal power would play a significant role in the financing. "The initial reaction of the Schleswig Holstein Energy Minister has been positive. Now the project is being investigated by the ministry more closely. If it proves viable then the ministry will give its full support," says the DKV's Friedrich Böck.

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