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North Sea's Wind Resources Could Combat Climate Change

A report released November 6 [2000] in Amsterdam said five North Sea countries (Germany, UK, Netherlands, Belgium and Denmark) have an offshore wind resource that is three times their total electricity consumption.

The report "North Sea Offshore Wind: A European Powerhouse," was prepared by the German Wind Energy Institute (DEWI), and it says that the technology and economics of wind power make it ready to tap the North Sea's vast quantities of wind energy.

According to the environmental group Greenpeace, which commissioned the report, it also "tackles in detail the environmental impacts of offshore wind parks on bird, marine mammals, fish and other marine ecosystems and sets out guidelines for sound development."

"This report sends a clear message to the politicians heading to the United Nations climate negotiations in The Hague next week that action can be taken now to prevent further climate change," Greenpeace said in a news release.

"[The DEWI] report shows that the same storms crippling Western Europe can be harnessed for good to power the region with clean energy," said Dr Karl Mallon, Energy Analyst for Greenpeace. "There is no need to cheat on emissions reductions and any attempts to let this happen in The Hague must be shut down by European governments. If 1% a year of the offshore resources of these five North Sea countries were used to displace coal through until 2012 . . . the North Sea offshore resource alone could be saving 186 million tonnes a year in C02 emissions--equal to 10.3 per cent of their current CO2 emission rates."

Greenpeace also said that if 1% of the offshore wind potential of the countries were developed it would provide clean power for 6.5 million new homes each year, employ 160,000 people, and allow the closure of five coal power plants each year.

The group called on the five North Sea countries to establish a licensing scheme to open up the offshore wind resource to private industry as a key part of their climate response strategy, saying "[O]ffshore renewable energy is currently being held back by institutional barriers, red tape and a lack of political will."

Key findings of the DEWI report, it said, include:

  1. The resource is massive. For the five countries covered in the report (Germany, the U.K., Netherlands, Belgium and Denmark) the offshore wind potential (1.9 trillion kWh per year) is more than triple their combined electricity consumption (605 billion kWh per year).

  2. "The technology is ready: Wind turbine technology is now of sufficient size, reliability and efficiency that [turbines] can be placed in the harsh North Sea environment with confidence. Just one of the latest multi-megawatt machines is able to supply the needs of about 2000 households with an availability of up to 99%.

  3. "Offshore is economic: The extra wind energy (40%) available offshore combined with extended machine lifetimes mean that in many locations offshore wind parks will make up the extra cost of connection back to shore.

  4. "Environmentally viable: The report assesses the available data on potential impacts on birds, sea mammals and other flora and fauna and finds that unacceptable adverse impacts are unlikely if good practice is followed."
For further information, contact Karl Mallon, phone +31-6-212-768-60, or Susan Cavanagh, phone +31-6-212-969-10. The full text of the report is available on the Web in the Greenpeace archive (original link http://www.greenpeace.org/%7Eclimate/climatecountdown/dewifinal10.pdf).