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Wind of change

 Wind of change
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Princess Amalia Wind Farm, North Sea, 23km off the Netherlands coast. Operational June 2008, its 60 turbines can power 125,000 households.

Given the European Union’s ambitious targets for renewable energy’s load-share in the bloc’s total energy mix by 2020, sea wind is the future, says
Claude Turmes, Green MEP, getting a first close look at the windfield:

“Europe is already the world leader in terms of equipment for renewables. Therefore, investing in this creates jobs in Europe. It reduces our energy dependence. If Europe moves, others will follow. On questions of the environment, even after the financial crash I would say, we in Europe must not be afraid to ensure our leadership.”

Eight member states on the North and Baltic Seas have harnessed the wind: Germany, Denmark, Sweden, the UK, the Netherlands, Finland, Belgium and Ireland. Italy has one afloat but it’s not hooked up yet. Poland, France and Spain plan to crank them up offshore by 2015.

Steve Sawyer, Global Wind Energy Council: “The North Sea is the logical first place, is the birthplace of the modern wind industry, it has very good wind sites and it’s in competition with on-shore spaces, which are very, very crowded in densely populated areas. So, it’s a good first place to develop them and you also have a huge demand ringed around the North-Sea and if it’s properly connected together with grids, an increasingly percent of northern Europe’s electricity supply can come from off-shore wind.”

“On windy days in Germany, we can shut off the coal stations. It’s good for the climate, but bad for EoN and RWE’s profits. That’s why the big electricity-generating groups remain strongly against renewable energies.”

Building offshore costs as much as 50% more than land-based windmills. Experts say the results of cost-profit analyses are not in yet. But the offshore turbines produce some 40 percent more electricity than onshore. Cheaper components need developing, to reduce costs.