Belgian developer C-Power launches legal battle over rejected 100 MW North Sea project

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Prospective offshore wind plant developer C-Power is to launch two legal battles after Belgian environment minister Magda Aelvoet rejected its application to build a 100 MW project in the North Sea on the Wenduine sandbank between Ostende and Zeebrugge. "First we will appeal to the Raad van State," says C-Power's Filip Martens. "We will also start a civil process, where we'll sue the federal government for damages." C-Power, a consortium of electricity distributor Interelectra, construction company Dredging International and Belgian wind turbine manufacturer Turbowinds, has already invested two years and EUR 2.75 million in the project. In January a site licence was granted by energy secretary Olivier Deleuze, but his decision sparked a surge of public opposition. A body with the catchy title Governing Unity Mathematical Model North Sea has also since said the project should be rejected as it would have adverse environmental effects. Aelvoet agrees and Martens is furious. "She wasn't playing the game right. She changed the rules about visual intrusion and birds' corridors after the procedure had already started," he says. "Her colleagues in the regional governments, responsible for onshore licences, already stipulated the legislation for wind projects some years ago. To agree with those rules a slight change in the layout of the wind farm would be sufficient, but the minister wants a completely new procedure." C-Power is not intending to reapply for permission to build the wind farm. "By 2005 a new generation of more powerful turbines will be ready. Then it will look prehistorical to build a wind station close to the coast," says Martens. "We're working on a project for a wind plant thirty kilometres off the coast instead, outside Belgian territorial waters, but in the restricted economical interest area."

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