Court rules for oil company -- Greenpeace offshore action

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Greenpeace has been forced to remove what it claimed was the world's first truly offshore wind turbine after a five day occupation of a North Sea gas drilling site. An Amsterdam court ruled in favour of an eviction request lodged by the owner of the site, Clyde Petroleum. The Dutch branch of Greenpeace had installed its 2.5 kW "Greenblades" turbine on July 25 to draw attention to the Netherlands' two-speed approach to offshore energy planning and to gather information on wind speeds.

The site, some 23 kilometres out to sea off the Dutch coastal town of Zandvoort, was chosen by Greenpeace because Clyde Petroleum was due to begin drilling for gas at the location. A long time critic of the speed and scope of the Dutch government's near-shore and offshore wind energy plans, Greenpeace Nederland occupied the site to demonstrate the potential of offshore technology and to publicise the government's different approach to offshore exploration.

"The Dutch government has been working on plans for wind energy development for years," says Greenpeace wind energy campaigner Diederik Samson. "The application processes for near-shore and offshore wind farms are incredibly slow. In contrast, oil and gas companies have no problems getting permits to drill for new fossil fuel supplies. Moreover, North Sea gas drilling gets a NLG 100 million annual subsidy."

Oil power

"Clyde Petroleum first applied for a licence for this site on June 1 this year and got the licence on July 10. By contrast, the renewable energy consultancy E-Connection applied for a licence to develop an offshore wind farm in 1998 and is still waiting for a decision." The speed with which Clyde Petroleum secured its eviction order lends further credence to the Greenpeace allegations, says Samson. "Under Dutch law there is a six week appeal period following a licence being issued during which no sensible company would begin operations. But the court granted Clyde's claim because it said that it wanted to start drilling immediately -- which has subsequently proved not to be the case."

Justifying the NLG 200,000 price tag of the operation, Samson points out that Greenpeace still has the turbine, a three-bladed Proven WT2500/048 made in the UK, for use in future operations. In its five day existence as the world's first true offshore turbine, "Greenblades" was mounted on a 13 metre mast attached to a 37.5 metre foundation tower, of which eight metres was sunk into the seabed. The unit is equipped with communication technology and its output was to have been used to send a daily email to Dutch ministers, members of parliament and utility heads recording the power that would have been generated by a wind farm at the location and the equivalent savings in CO2 emissions.

Wind speed and direction data was also to have been sent to the Dutch Energy Research Centre (ECN) and the Technical University Delft. Granted a longer stay, the unit would also have been fitted with sensors for measuring mast stresses and wave movement, says Samson.

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