Belgium

Belgium

Competing plans progress slowly -- A long way to go off Belgium

The two consortia that have proposed 100 MW offshore wind farms in the Belgian North Sea have moved forward on their plans, yet many practical, technical questions remain unanswered.

C-Power -- a consortium of electricity distributor Interelectra, building company Dredging International and Belgian wind turbine maker Turbowinds -- hopes to build upon the experience of Dredging's work at the offshore wind farm at Utgrunden, Sweden, inaugurated last month. It hopes to build a wind plant on the Wenduine sand bank between Oostende and Zeebrugge, six to 11 kilometres from the coast. "One of our prime goals is building up more know-how," says C-Power's Filip Martens. His colleague Emmanuel Timmermans adds, "This project must become our worldwide business card." Fifty 2 MW turbines from Danish Bonus will be used, the same type erected in the 40 MW Middelgrunden offshore wind plant in Denmark recently. Turbowinds has an alliance with Bonus.

The maintenance strategy has not been developed yet. "But we already have all the necessary boats," says Martens. The plant is expected to produce about 330 million kWh/year. In Belgium, that's the average energy consumption of 100,000 households and will avoid the emission of 230,000 tonnes of CO2 a year, the company says, the absorption equivalent of 11 million trees. Investment is estimated at BEF 9 billion (EUR 225 million) with annual maintenance costs at BEF 200 million (EUR 5 million). C-power hopes to start building next spring, but this will depend on how fast it makes it through the approval process.

Evaluation period

Seanergy -- composed of electricity producers Electrabel and SPE and building company Jan De Nul -- plans to build its plant in phases, starting with a group of ten turbines, followed by an evaluation period. The project is slated for a site near Knokke 12.5 kilometres from shore. Seanergy plans to drive monopiles directly into the seabed, mounting the towers on top, according to Xavier Votron of Electrabel. The expected project cost is BEF 8 billion (EUR 200 million). Supplier of the planned 50, 2 MW turbines will be chosen through public tender. The company hopes to have the entire plant on-line by the end of 2004.

Both consortia plan to paint the towers so they match the colour of the sea to avoid accusations of visual pollution on the horizon. Further environmental impact studies are needed to predict the influence of both wind plants on nearby bird migration routes. Seanergy has also begun negotiations with the languishing Belgian fishery sector to compensate it for supposed but unproven economic damage to fishermen because of the construction activity.

Bureaucracy adds a special challenge, with the particular case of Flanders, which has a minister for environment, another for protected areas and still another for town and country planning. Because Knokke is near the Dutch border, the Dutch government might even need to get involved in the long procedure to obtain the necessary building authorisations. "In fact, for all the parts of the project that aren't in sea, the whole challenge is only political," admits Piet Lemmens of Electrabel.

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