Wallonia set to be Belgium hub

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With just over 20 MW of new capacity added to take the country's total installed capacity from 167.4 MW at the end of 2005 to 187.8 MW at the end of 2006, the last year could be perceived as a dismal one for wind development in Belgium. On the other hand, licenses were granted for over 200 MW of wind projects planned for Wallonia, making the year a significant one for the French speaking southern half of the country. All the new plant are due online in Wallonia by the end of next year. Even though it installed just 7.3 MW of new capacity in 2006, it now looks set to overtake Dutch speaking Flanders as Belgium's leading wind region.

In 2006, 13.1 MW of wind plant was installed in Flanders to bring its cumulative installed capacity to 131.5 MW from 109 turbines. Wallonia had 40 turbines totalling 56.3 MW, up from 49 MW at the end of 2005 and 23.3 MW at end of 2004.

The slow planning regime in Flanders has left the region's developers slightly envious of their neighbours to the south. "Development is very slow," says Christa Schaut of the Flanders association for renewable energy, Organisatie voor Duurzame Energie (ODE). "It could have been much better." The major problem is getting the permit in the first place, she says, and then there is a long wait for turbines, a supply problem hitting the wind industry globally. Flanders is aiming to produce 900 GWh of electricity from wind energy by 2010, requiring around 450 MW of capacity, so it has some way to go. In Wallonia, the ministries of energy and the environment work more closely in considering planning applications, which speeds things up.

Meanwhile, there is still little progress in harmonising the national wind market. Different markets operate for trade of green energy certificates in the three federal regions of Belgium, Brussels, Flanders and Wallonia. Sale of certificates by wind plant owners tops up earnings from sale of electricity.

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