Belgium bets on early entry into the offshore wind sector
This is a feature of Windpower Monthly September 2021 Insight Report. Click here to read the full edition
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Despite a coastline measuring only 65 km, Belgium is among the leaders in offshore wind power, with the first phase of C-Power’s 325 MW Thornton Bank offshore wind farm (30MW Thornton Bank 1 Thornton Bank 1 (30MW) OffshoreOstend, West Flanders, Belgium, Europe Click to see all the details) commissioned in 2009. With 2262 MW now online in the North Sea, Belgium is fourth in Europe behind the United Kingdom, Germany and the Netherlands for offshore capacities.
Belgium has become an offshore wind power, in part, by ensuring that all parties concerned are involved from the start of the planning process. From environmental groups to the navy and the shipping industry, “what Belgium has done very well is to collaborate with the different offshore stakeholders – making sure they all talk to each other – and identifying areas where you can build, ”says Ivan Komusanac, a markets and technology analyst at WindEurope.
Belgium also gets high marks for communicating the need for energy transition and the importance of wind power in moving away from fossil fuels. Tinne Van der Straeten, from the Green Party, Minister of Energy since 2020, is a fervent promoter of wind energy and renewable energies in general. Besides Belgian fries, chocolate and beer, Van der Straeten says offshore wind farms should also be seen as “national pride”.
She stressed that the country should accelerate the development of renewable energy after missing its 2020 target of 13% renewable energy share of 1.3%. It had to make up the difference by purchasing renewable energy through statistical transfers with EU countries that exceeded their targets.
After the completion of the first wind development zone in Belgium in 2020 with the commissioning of Parkwind 219MW Northwest 2 Northwest 2 (219MW) Offshoreoff Ostend, Belgium, Europe Click to see all the details wind farm and the 487 MW Seamade project in Otary – comprising the 252MW SeaMade (Seastar) SeaMade (Seastar) (252MW) Offshoreoff Zeebrugge, Belgium, Europe Click to see all the details} and 235MW SeaMade (Mermaid) SeaMade (Siren) (235MW) Offshoreoff Zeebrugge, Belgium, Europe Click to see all the details, the government is now preparing to open a new offshore wind development area further west in a 285 km2 expanse of sea known as the Princess Elisabeth area. The government initially identified 2.2 GW to be allocated in the new area, although Komusanac notes that this could reach 3.5 GW.
Future growth will be supported by the strong supply chain and technical expertise that Belgium has established in offshore wind.
Given its small size, dense population, and high demand for electricity from its chemical and other energy-intensive industries that need to decarbonize, it is not surprising that Belgium is also looking to collaborate with other countries on electrical interconnections and offshore wind power.
In February 2021, the Belgian transmission system operator Elia signed an agreement with its Danish counterpart Energinet to conduct a technical and cost-benefit analysis for an electricity connection between Belgium and Denmark via an energy island in the North Sea.
While Belgium seeks to develop at sea, it is also developing on land, where wind capacity at the end of 2020 stood at 2,459 MW. While the federal government is responsible for offshore wind power, the regions of Wallonia and Flanders are responsible for validating onshore projects on their territory. “The installation of new onshore wind farms is more difficult because you have a lot more conflicting interests in the establishment,” says Komusanac of WindEurope.
However, given an inevitable lull in new offshore wind facilities ahead of tendering and capacity building in the Princess Elisabeth area, Belgium is expected to see more onshore wind farms coming into service in the coming years. In 2021-25, WindEurope predicts that the country will add 865 MW of onshore capacity and 350 MW offshore.
In the longer term, offshore wind in Belgium should remain a point of pride and the industry has high ambitions.
A recent study carried out by the Climact research group and commissioned by the industrial association Belgium Offshore Platform, highlights the economic and climatic advantages of increasing the country’s offshore wind target to 6 GW compared to the scenario of 4 , 4 GW envisaged by the federal government in 2018.
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