Plans for huge offshore project, government ready with support

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The feasibility of constructing a 100 turbine, 100 MW wind power station in the North Sea is to be studied by Dutch energy and environment agency NOVEM. If built, the offshore project will be the largest single wind farm in the world.

The study follows last year's TWIN-2 report on the future of wind energy in the Netherlands which concluded that because of land restrictions, the potential for installing wind turbines onshore is limited to some 1500 MW, a ceiling expected to be reached by the year 2010. In the report "non-traditional" sites, including offshore locations, were identified as offering the best prospect for the large scale use of wind energy in the long term.

According to NOVEM, its offshore study is intended as a first step to the realisation of pilot project which it is hoped will demonstrate the technical and economic viability of offshore development to private investors.

The study is being conducted in four stages. Phase one will consider the likely impact on the environment, acceptable noise-levels, the morphology of the sea bed and the wind resources of different sites. The logistics of construction and connection will also be considered during this phase. Phase two will look into the planning and legal issues raised by the creation of a structure which is visible from the coast. Phase three will be concerned with the technical aspects of offshore placement, including the adaptation of land-based turbines for offshore use, while in phase four the economic feasibility of the project will be examined.

The results of the study should be made known in July and if favourable the project will receive financial support from the NLG 750 million fund the government has set aside for its "CO2 Reduction Plan" . Investment costs are estimated at some NLG 300-400 million. The wind farm would supply electricity for some 100,000 users, enough for a city the size of Utrecht.

Given a favourable outcome and the political will, Novem believes that construction of the project could begin in 2000.

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