Wind powered trains could speed across the Belgian countryside in a few years following a decision by Infrabel, the rail network operator, to participate in utility Electrabel's 40-50 MW wind farm project, the country's biggest onshore development to date. Electrabel will put up 51% and Infrabel 9% of the funding, estimated at EUR 65 million, while the remaining 40% will come from the six municipalities on whose land the turbines will be installed. The proposal is for 20 turbines of 2-2.5 MW to stand alongside the E40 motorway and the Leuven-Liège high-speed railway line, which cuts through the municipalities of Hannuit, Sint Truiden, Landen, Lincent, Gingelom and Hélécine. Electrabel recently held the first public meetings in what promises to be a lengthy permitting process. If all goes to plan, the company hopes to submit official applications to the municipalities in 2009 and bring the turbines on line gradually from 2010. Infrabel estimates that under optimal conditions of strong winds and low demand the 100 GWh annual output will be sufficient to power all the trains running on this stretch of track. In general, though, it reckons around a third of the power will feed into Infrabel's overhead wires and the remainder into the grid. Infrabel will spend some EUR 3 billion in adapting its sub-stations to handle the power. But the company says the electricity will cost around 30% below market prices, largely thanks to the lack of transmission costs. It will also allow Infrabel to avoid 60,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions, which represents around 10% of emissions by the railways in 2007. Electrabel currently has 67 MW of wind power operating in Belgium and 654 MW in Europe.
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