Belgium’s Council of Ministers has cleared a proposal to expand the size of the Princess Elisabeth offshore wind development zone in the North Sea to 3.15-3.5GW from the previously planned 2.2GW.
Energy minister Tinne Van der Straeten and Vincent Van Quickenborne, Belgium’s deputy prime minister and minister of justice and the North Sea, were behind the proposal.
The planned wind farms will be connected to the mainland via an energy island.
Following completion of the country’s first wind development zone in 2020, Belgium currently has 2,262MW of wind farms in its portion of the North Sea, a figure that could rise to nearly 5.8GW if the new zone is fully developed.
Van der Straeten said the decision to expand the size of the Princess Elisabeth zone was based on a levelised cost of energy (LCoE) study conducted by Belgian advisory firm 3E.
“Technological progress means that the technical-economic optimum” lies in the new capacity range for the zone decided by the government, she said.
Belgian grid operator Elia has been tasked with working out the details for connecting the zone via the energy island, as well as providing for the option of interconnecting the island to the grids of other countries.
Van der Straeten said the use of an energy island means that no grid reinforcement will be needed on land. She added that the energy island would be completed by 2026 and wind farms would start connecting to the grid from 2027.
The Belgian government is expected to launch the first competitive tender for the Princess Elisabeth zone in 2023.
The support mechanism for projects in the zone will be decided later this year, Van der Straeten said, noting that the 3E study indicated subsidies may not be necessary.