According to Flemish energy minister Steve Stevaert, the 3% target could be met with 30 new wind turbines in Flanders, 20 on land and ten offshore. The permitting process, however, is proceeding extremely slowly, says Wilfried van Melckebeke of Belgium's only manufacturer of utility scale wind turbines, Turbowinds. He feels the message this sends to the industry about the government's intentions is ambiguous. "Since 1994 we have been ready to build five 400 kW turbines in Zolder. It's a demonstration project at the site of a former coal mine at a height of 120 metres. There it's almost as windy as on our North Sea coast. But every time we get close, somebody else asks for new research on the so-called horizon pollution or on the effects on the bird population," says Van Melckebeke.
"We get the impression that gaining a construction permit is much easier in Wallonia than in Flanders," comments a spokesman from Electrabel, the largest Belgian electricity producer. He is guardedly optimistic, however. "I think at the end of this year we'll have all necessary documents to start construction of a wind plant consisting of five, 1.7 MW turbines in Bütgenbach, near the German border in Wallonia. For a similar project in Schelle, near the river Scheldt in Flanders, the administration has put us on a delay of another two months, in order to do more research on the installation of three 1.6 MW turbines."
Future is biomass
Wim Buelens, an advisor to Stevaert, does not feel the future of renewables in Belgium lies in wind power. "In the long term most of our renewable energy will probably be produced from biomass," he says. Flanders, he stresses, wants its renewable electricity to be generated in Flanders. This view is supported by ecological action group Bond Beter Leefmilieu (BBL). Electrabel, however, is known to favour erecting wind turbines where the wind blows, such as in Scotland or Denmark.
Meantime the Flemish government has issued a planning guidance note to help local authorities process wind plant building applications, including information on which areas should and should not be considered for development. It is also to publish a Wind Plan, due for completion this month after two years of work.
Nationally, the Belgian government has produced an offshore wind power development plan identifying suitable areas for development and has announced it sees considerable potential for wind development in its waters (Windpower Monthly, July 2000).