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Offshore wind farm opens off the coast of the Netherlands 

The Netherlands flipped the switch Wednesday on its first major offshore wind farm, a €200 million metallic forest in the North Sea that will provide enough power to light 100,000 homes.

Crown Prince Willem-Alexander and 14 children inaugurated the site at Egmond aan Zee, 35 kilometers, or 22 miles, northwest of Amsterdam, symbolically blowing on plastic fans.

Though more expensive than land-based wind farms, the $272 million offshore project was meant to satisfy objections that the towering windmills would be a blot on the landscape. It also takes advantage of stronger, steadier coastal breezes.

The 36 turbines are capable of producing 108 megawatts an hour, another step toward the Dutch goal of generating 9 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2010.

“I am convinced that without the further deployment of offshore wind energy, it will be impossible to meet the present government’s ambitious goals for sustainable energy,” the economy minister, Maria van der Hoeven, said in a statement. “We must therefore put in place procedures for licensing and subsidies that will bring about innovation and cost reductions.”

The project, jointly owned by Royal Dutch Shell and the Dutch utility company Nuon, was supported by a package of direct aid, tax breaks and production subsidies.

The government has mapped out sites for 65 wind farms in the North Sea. The sites are in shallow water, far enough from shore to be unobtrusive and to reduce the risk of catching birds in their blades.

Similar-sized projects are planned for Britain, Ireland, France, Germany and the United States.

Official data show that wind energy production amounted to a preliminary 2,742 gigawatt hours last year and contributed 2.37 percent of the Netherlands’ total electricity consumption, up slightly from 1.81 percent in 2005.

The previous Dutch government lifted a ban in 2004 on the construction of offshore wind farms on the North Sea. The Transport Ministry introduced the moratorium several years ago and stopped issuing licenses for offshore wind farm projects until new legislation was adopted.

Shell, which sees wind energy as one of the promising renewable energy technologies, said it would continue to invest in wind farms.

“We are concentrating on finding solutions to the climate problem,” the Shell chief executive, Jeroen van der Veer, said. “Wind energy is one option here. The onus is now on us to prove as quickly as possible that offshore wind energy is a profitable business so that we continue to invest in it.”

Agence France-Presse, Reuters, The Associated Press


18 April 2007

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