Long-mooted plans for an experimental 100 MW near-shore wind farm off the Dutch North Sea coast inched a little further off the drawing board in July with the formal institution of procedures to pinpoint a location. Initiated several years ago as part of the Dutch government's drive to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, the experimental wind farm is intended as a demonstration project to garner the required know-how to set up larger scale offshore wind projects in the future. A feasibility study conducted by government environmental agency Novem in late 1997, which canvassed the views of environmental organisations, residents and local authorities, concluded there were no insurmountable hurdles to the wind plant's construction. This has cleared the way for the current round of red tape, an official application for planning permission which includes an assessment of the wind farm's impact on its immediate environment. A so-called "start memorandum" published on July 13 details the size, nature and objectives of the demonstration project and enumerates its likely environmental effects, inviting interested parties to submit their objections or reactions to the proposals in writing by mid September. Several consortia have already shown a deal of interest in building the offshore project, according to the Dutch ministry for economic affairs. "Up to NLG 60 million has been set aside for the near-shore wind farm within the framework of the government policy to reduce carbon dioxide emissions," the ministry says. Total costs are estimated at around NLG 400 million. The government subsidy -- which is still under discussion and requires European Union approval -- will depend on the extent to which the experimental project is able to give pointers for building larger scale offshore projects, it said.