Archive for the ‘Wind’ category

Red Tape Halts Green Energy

July 14, 2010

H/T to reader DirkH

The German edition of the Financial Times has a story today on wind energy’s latest debacle in Germany: treehugger-bureaucrats. In one corner we have environmentalists demanding the installation of wind energy to avert a climate catastrophe, and in another corner you have environmentalist bureaucrats stopping windparks in order to protect local wildlife.

Green offshore windparks clash with green German bureaucrats.

Meanwhile, energy prices for the consumer are going through the roof.

The Federal Office For Nature Protection (no joke!), responsible for approving offshore wind parks,  is having second thoughts about the foundations used for offshore windmills because “they pose a threat to wildlife”.  As a result that have stopped approving any additional windmills until further notice. This is confirmed by a letter to the FT from the Federal Office For Nature Protection.

The FT reports that 2 types of foundations are used for anchoring offshore wind generators. In one type, huge piles are rammed into the seabed by 15,000 blows delivered by a heavy pile driver. But the noise this work creates is disturbing the whales, and they are leaving their living areas for quieter places. That has to stop.

The second type of foundation is the so-called gravity foundation made of concrete. But the heavy concrete pads end up sealing the seabed and thus damage crabs and mussels. Can’t have that either. According to the letter:

Gravity type foundations cannot be considered as an alternative foundation because they are installed on the seabed using  acoustic ramming. A better way would be to use a foundation that is installed using some sort of boring process.

Technically this is possible, but there exists no company to do it. Meanwhile investors and the numerous companies that are currently installing offshore windparks in Germany’s North Sea now face heavy losses. The FT writes:

Severely impacted are companies that are deep into the approval process. This is because the approval processes are lengthy and costs millions of euros, as they entail comprehensive expert attestations and environmental impact studies.

Needless to say, offshore windpark companies are outraged. And all companies that are in the approval process have left out the question on foundations – fearing not being granted approval. But without a foundation, it’s impossible to put up a windmill – thus every approval becomes worthless.

Lawmakers are also outraged by the delays. Yet, the Federal Office For Nature Protection insists it is not imposing a moratorium of any kind, and that rather it is only trying to find a way to bring offshore wind energy production in harmony with nature.

According one German Parliamentarian, Torsten Staffeldt.

The Federal Office For Nature Protection is drifting into absurdity. If we continue like this, we’ll never reach our goals for expanding offshore wind energy.

Well I’d hate to disappoint Herr Staffeldt, but that point has long been reached and surpassed. Worse yet – the treehugger wars are just beginning.

Exasperated German Environment Minister To Environmentalists: “Show Us Your Proposal!”

July 12, 2010

Environmentalists say windmills are (not) for the birds.

Not long ago environmentalists stridently demanded mankind stop its addiction to fossil fuels and convert to renewable energy sources, like wind power. And so some countries did just that. But now we’re finding out that environmentalists don’t like that either. 

Today Der Spiegel online reports that environmentalists are going to court and challenging almost every planned windpark project under the sun, now claiming they are a threat to birds and wildlife.

For example in 2007 the company Neue Energie Berlin GmbH was getting ready to install Hamburg’s first windpark in an industrial zone called Pankow-Nord. It seemed like a model project for responsible energy production. But before too long, the project ended up getting challenged in court. The environmental protection group called Nabu filed a lawsuit claiming the planned 180-meter tall windmills endangered the only two remaining red kite bird pairs in the city. The project was halted.

Eventually, the court decided the birds were not at risk and gave the project the green light. The nests after all were three kilometres from the construction site. The case clearly illustrates that not only are windparks riddled with technical probelms as reported read here, but also face huge, costly legal obstacles.

Because windparks generally are situated out in the countryside, conflicts with natural wildlife habitats are inevitable. Environmental lawsuits against planned windparks are mounting and threatening to throw sand into Germany’s vision of a green future. Indeed, according to Der Spiegel, Germany’s Minister for Environment Norbert Röttgen warns: 

That of all things, precisely the environmental activists are putting plans to expand renewable energy at risk. 

The exasperated Minister Röttgen then demands 

that the German environmental organisations put forth their own plans as to how they think wind energy and biomass plants are to be intensified without billions of euros in investments getting blocked by ecological objections. 

Currently environmentalists are barricading against government plans for further expansion of windparks in the North Sea. Already 4400 square kilometers of sea area are now planned for offshore windparks. But environmentalists now cite dangers to sea birds and whales. Der Spiegel writes: 

A total of 95 offshore-parks are planned to be built in Germany’s so-called  Excluded Business Zones  and thus will seriously encroach on the living space of protected species such as the red-throated and Arctic divers. Even the Federal Office for Nature Protection says the birds will respond by making a wide circle around the windmills. There’s also a danger that construction noise will harm the protected common porpoise. 

The regulators at the Federal Office for Nature Protection say: 

For this reason not every place in the Excluded Business Zone will be permitted.

So indeed it looks like billions of euros emarked for investment in wind energy are about to hit the big green legal wall.