Construction of the foundations for Denmark's next offshore wind farm is nearing completion. Over the past weeks, ten steel-reinforced concrete cones, each measuring 14 metres in diameter, have slowly sprouted along the dockside at the port of Aarhus. This month they will be floated on flat bottomed barges to their final destination, a site some 12 miles from Aarhus off the tiny island of Tunø. The 5 MW project, to be made up of ten Vestas 500 kW wind turbines, is being developed by utility association Elsam.

Technically the marine element of the project's construction is very little different from that of Denmark's first offshore wind plant at Vindeby. The main aim of the Tunø wind farm, though, is to test its environmental impact, not its technical feasibility. The site, between Tunø and the east Jutland mainland, is surrounded by sand banks well inhabited by a variety of bird species. Porpoises are also among summer visitors to the area, which is also frequented by commercial fishing boats as well as cruising yachts.

Fierce opposition to the project has come not from the islanders, who are already proud owners of a wind plant, but from weekend-home owners on the Jutland coast. The offshore project is likely to be visible from the coast in good weather, but is far too far from land to be heard.

In allowing it go ahead, politicians appear to have agreed that the long term aims of the ambitious project -- to develop wind plant technology for offshore sites -- outweigh the short term interests of holiday-making Danes. Denmark's first offshore project has already proved the viability of wind farming at sea where winds are a good deal stronger than those on land. It is hoped that the Tunø project will convince objectors that wind turbines at sea will not be the feared blot on the horizon that many have claimed.

The ten foundations will be shipped four at a time to Tunø and hoisted into place by a 600 tonne floating crane. Once on the sea bottom, at a depth of three to five metres, each cone will be filled with sand. Installation of the Vestas turbines is scheduled to take place in August -- and there are hopes that the project's DKK 87 million budget might prove to have been an overestimation of the offshore project's final cost.

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