Greenpeace picks up the wind banner, offshore plans for 10.000 mw

Greenpeace Nederland has unveiled its plans for a massive 10,000 MW offshore wind power station to be completed by 2030. The announcement broke the silence of Greenpeace International on the subject of wind power in other countries with calls for development that would meet 40% of current Dutch electricity requirements.

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In marked contrast to the note of cautious optimism on offshore wind development in the Netherlands struck by government agency Novem (see over), Greenpeace Nederland used the platform of the World Sustainable Energy Trade Fair in Amsterdam in late May to unveil their plans for a massive 10,000 MW offshore wind power station to be completed by 2030.

Greenpeace International, campaigning under the slogan "The Solar Century," has been ominously silent on the subject of wind power in other countries. But Greenpeace Nederland has apparently decided to pick up the wind energy banner. It stole the conference headlines of the fair on May 27, setting the agenda for debate with calls for an offshore development which, with an annual output of 30 Terrawatt hours, would meet 40% of current Dutch electricity requirements.

Introduced with a computer animated "visualisation" of a solar-powered ship visiting the world's largest offshore development -- the installation would occupy some 35 square kilometres, or 2% of the Dutch sector of the North Sea -- the Greenpeace proposals were backed by a feasibility study commissioned from Delft-based consultancy firm, E-Connection, copies of which were circulated to visitors to the congress.

Following in outline the structure of Novem's own feasibility study, the 32 page report, Winds of Change, considers the planning, legal, technological, economic, and organisational issues raised by large scale offshore development. Technologically the power station would require the use of wind turbines with rated capacities of 3 MW and, the report argues, the development of a new engineering discipline combining expertise from the fields of past offshore development and wind technology. Novem's Ruud de Bruijne said that he "saw the Greenpeace plans as a remarkable initiative which support our own proposals" and added that Novem had plans for an 8000 MW offshore development to be completed by 2030."

Other speakers on the Greenpeace Nederland panel, including Cees Andriesse, Professor of Energy Physics at the University of Utrecht, endorsed the Greenpeace proposals. However, Peter van Leeuwen of Dutch bank ING's department of strategic projects, said that financing such a large-scale project would require a consortium of banks to cover the high risks involved.

Wim Bierbooms of the Dutch Institute for Wind Energy at Delft University was sceptical about Greenpeace's equivalence figures, suggesting that a 10,000 MW wind plant would yield only 3000-4000 MW of power rather than the 5000 MW claimed by Greenpeace. He also emphasised the importance of an integrated planning approach to such a project. Bierbooms is currently working on a European Union sponsored offshore feasibility study, Opti-OWECS.

Political significance

Jaap Rodenburg of Greenpeace describes the plans first and foremost as a lobbyist's brief. "We have to convince the Energy Council for the European Union to redirect government energy subsidies away from nuclear energy and fossil fuels into renewable sources," he says. Part of the project's inspiration, Rodenburg explains, lies in Dutch energy minister Hans Wijers' recent remarks on opening five new gas-fired generators at the giant Eemscentrale power station. Although admitting that the new Eemscentrale was already a "dinosaur," Wijers claimed that renewable energy could never hope to better the cost price of the Eemscentrale's 1675 MW or rival fossil fuels' percentage contribution to total energy demands. "We wanted to show him that he was wrong" , says Rodenburg.

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