Belgium doubles offshore wind zone
Thursday, Apr 26, 2018

The Belgian government has said it plans to double the area of its North Sea waters that will be made available to offshore wind schemes after 2020. The move is part of Brussels’s plan to wean the country off the nuclear power on which it remains heavily reliant.

Belgium has two nuclear power plants (NPPs), at Doel and Tihange. Between them they have seven reactors with a total capacity of around 5.7 GW, which together produce over half the country’s electricity. But both sites have experienced technical problems in recent years, and are scheduled to be shut down and decommissioned by 2025.

To help offset this anticipated loss of generating capacity, the government has said it will designate a new, 221-square-km widn development zone near the border with French territorial waters. The area will lie between 35 and 40km offshore and will not be visible from land. All existing and previously planned projects are located in a 225-square-km site off the coast of Zeebrugge.

“The North Sea is a crucial partner in our country’s energy transition,” Belgian Secretary of State for Social Fraud, Privacy and the North Sea, Philippe De Backer, told reporters.

The new offshore wind capacity will be offered through a series of public tenders, the minister said. He added that in light of the fast-falling costs of building and operating offshore wind schemes across Europe, the tender should be able to take inspiration from recent offers in neighbouring Germany and the Netherlands and not need to be backed by government subsidies.

As of the end of 2017, Belgium had four offshore wind farms in operation with a combined installed capacity of 877 MW. Some 165 MW of this was added last year. The government hopes to raise that total to 2.2 GW in the coming two years, and to reach 4 GW by 2030.

In October 2017, it agreed to a price of 79 euros (US$96.60) per MWh to support three new offshore projects: Mermaid and Seastar (both with a capacity of 246 MW), and the 224-MW Northwester 2. Indeed, this week the developer of Northwester 2, Parkwind, announced that turbine maker MHI Vestas would supply its V164-9.5 MW turbine for the project, becoming the first commercial installation to adopt the new platform. Installation is set for late 2019.

Minister De Backer also told local media sources, however, that one possible major bottleneck threatening the latest longer-term plans could be the speed at which all the extra capacity can be connected up to the national grid.

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