European offshore: Belgium tackles grid delays

A long-awaited grid upgrade will enable 1.4GW of stalled projects to proceed, reports Jan Dodd.

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Completion of the 216MW Northwind project with Vestas V112-3.0 turbines brought Belgium's total offshore operating capacity to 706MW, not including the commissioning of Alstom's prototype 6MW Haliade. No new capacity will be added in 2015, but the consortium behind the 165MW Nobelwind project - Parkwind, Sumitomo and Meewind - hopes to reach financial close late this year or early next.

Five projects totalling 1,374MW that had been held up by a lack of onshore high-voltage grid capacity are now bursting into life after grid operator Elia received final clearance for an upgrade between Zomergem and Zeebrugge. The work is due to be completed by 2018. The developers are now seeking the remaining permits and have started the contracting process.

The two most advanced projects are Rentel (288MW), owned by the Otary consortium, and Norther (350MW), jointly owned by Eneco and Elicio. Both hope to reach financial close and start construction next year. They will be followed by the 244MW Northwester 2, Seastar (246MW) and Mermaid (266MW) projects.

All five will be built under the revised support mechanism introduced last year. The tariff is currently set at EUR138/MWh but will be reduced if the price of electricity rises in order to minimise the cost to consumers while still allowing the owners a sufficient return on investment. The scheme will be reviewed every three years from 2017. Although less advantageous than some had hoped, the industry says it can work with the new scheme.

Plans are also afoot to build an "energy atoll" to store surplus wind energy. A group consisting of Electrabel, PMV, DEME, SRIW, Socofe, Power at Sea and Jan de Nul have applied for a concession off Ostende and hope to get a decision this spring. Construction would start in 2017 at the earliest.

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