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Shell pulls out of world’s biggest wind farm near London, putting entire project at risk

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Associated Press: Shell pulls out of world’s biggest wind farm near London, putting entire project at risk

May 01, 2008

LONDON_Royal Dutch Shell PLC said Thursday it plans to sell its share in a project to build the world’s largest electricity-generating wind farm near the British capital, raising a strong possibility that the project will be scrapped.

Green groups were incensed by Shell’s announcement that it is looking to dispose of its 33 percent shareholding in the 2 billion pound (US$4 billion; ?2.6 billion) London Array project which, if built, would supply enough electricity to power a quarter of homes in the greater London area.

Friends of the Earth spokesman Nic Rau said the decision to pull out had an extra sting, coming just two days after Shell posted a 25 percent rise in first quarter profit to a record US$9.1 billion (?5.8 billion) on the back of soaring crude oil prices.

“We’re very disappointed that Shell, which touts itself as a progressive green company, is pulling out of the London Array project, and leaving a key clean energy project high and dry,” said Rau.

“It should be investing those profits in renewable energy projects not focusing its efforts on making money from sucking fossil fuels out of the ground and contributing to climate change,” he said.

Shell, Europe’s largest oil producer, has an equal share in the project _ which was due for completion around 2010 to 2011 _ with Germany’s E.On, the world’s biggest publicly traded utility, and Denmark’s Dong Energy.

Shell said it decided to sell its stake as part of its “ongoing review of projects and investment choices,” noting the company has 11 other wind projects across Europe and the United States.

“While we remain committed to the scheme, Shell has introduced a new element of risk into the project which will need to be assessed,” said E.On U.K. chief executive Paul Golby.

“The current economics of the project are marginal at best, with rising steel prices, bottlenecks in turbine supply and competition from the rest of the world all moving against us.”

The project, announced with great fanfare by Shell three years ago, would place some 341 wind turbines on offshore platforms where the Thames River meets the North Sea around 60 miles outside London.

The turbines would generate around 1,000 megawatts and connect into Britain’s national grid to supply power for more than 750,000 homes, helping the country to meet the government’s target of generating 10 percent of electricity from renewable sources by 2010.

The British government has repeatedly expressed its commitment to offshore wind farms as a way of cutting emissions linked to global warming. As one of the windiest countries in Europe, Britain is naturally predisposed to turbine power generation.

Environment Secretary Hilary Benn today said Shell’s decision was “very disappointing.”

“And I think a lot of people would want to understand why that was the case, especially in a week in which the company has announced record profits,” Benn told lawmakers in the House of Commons.

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