Green groups block German offshore -- Objections to Butendiek site

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German environmental groups have launched legal procedures to stop development of the permitted 240 MW offshore wind station Butendiek in the North Sea because the project lies in a nature protection area. Environment associations Naturschutzbund (Nabu) and Bund für Umwelt und Naturschutz Deutschland (BUND) have placed a joint appeal with the Hamburg administrative court -- and they plan to extend their legal campaign to other offshore projects. Nabu has also lodged a complaint with the European Commission (EC). The German environment ministry says both cases "have a weak foundation."

The EC complaint hinges on Butendiek's location in "an area that is worthy of protection according to EU law." The region west of the island of Sylt boasts a significant number of endangered sea birds and porpoises and fulfils the prerequisites for EU bird migration and fauna-flora-habitat protection areas, according to Nabu's Claus Mayr.

The Hamburg court charge also aims at preventing the construction of a wind station in "an ecologically highly sensitive area in the North Sea." The Butendiek wind station is proposed for 34 square kilometres within the 5000 square kilometre protected area. Ironically the Danish 160 MW Horns Reef offshore wind plant, sited further north, lies in the same protection area as Butendiek. Nabu says it cannot take a complaint about a Danish project to the EC and Danish environmental counterparts have refrained from doing so.

Tactical games

The project developer, Offshore-Bürger-Windpark Butendiek (OSB), appeals to Nabu to "abandon its lobby-based tactical games and get down to discussing the facts." The company says that Nabu knew from the start that Butendiek lay in a protected zone, requiring OSB to meet the highest environmental standards, says the developer's Wolfgang Paulsen. The two year environmental impact analysis "clearly" showed that marine life would not be impaired and this was the "decisive fundamental" for the permit granted by the German federal shipping office in November. Furthermore, Nabu's demands that the site be shifted 50-60 kilometres from the island of Sylt "make no sense" because marine life there is similar to the current location. "There is also more shipping passing through the deeper waters and thus more danger of collision with turbines, and building farther out in deeper waters is also more expensive," Paulsen says.

OSB will press on with its EUR 400 million project. Test drillings began last month, and invitations for tenders to supply the foundations and turbines are underway. Documentation for a permit for the cable route to shore is being prepared, the company says. If that permit is granted, OSB expects to start installing the planned 80, 3 MW turbines in 2005 for commissioning at the end of 2006.

The company has the backing of the federal ministry for environment, nature protection and reactor safety, Bundesministerium für Umwelt, Naturschutz und Reaktorsicherheit. A spokesman there says, "There are considerable doubts over whether the [environmental] associations have the right to bring a legal charge against a permit granted for a project outside territorial waters."

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