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Protecting porpoises’ hearing adds millions to wind farm projects

The Telegraph — August 16, 2012

Porpoises are adding millions of euros to costs for wind-turbine developers in waters off Germany, delaying the nation’s shift from nuclear energy.

EON and RWE, the country’s two biggest utilities, are using technologies that reduce noise from driving turbines into the seabed after nature groups complained that the work damages the sonar-like hearing of porpoises. Unexploded mines from the Second World War also are holding up work.

“A porpoise is doomed to die if its hearing is shattered,” Kim Detloff, a marine expert at German nature conservation group NABU, told Bloomberg. “The regulator must sanction developers if they repeatedly violate the noise limit.”

The concerns show that wind developers are beginning to face the same scrutiny as oil companies for projects in sensitive places, a trend likely to add costs and slim profit margins that already are razor-thin. That adds another hurdle to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s effort to build up offshore wind as an alternative to atomic power, a program that may cost €39bn (£31bn) by 2020.

“Developing offshore wind in Germany is already more expensive than in other countries as projects are situated further from the coast in deeper waters,” said Fraser Johnston, an analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance. “Any additional costs such as delays to grid connections and environmental considerations will put more pressure on already low returns.”

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