Energy islands in front of the Belgian coast

In this post we will discuss a solution to make existing and new offshore wind farms more efficient and profitable. One of the problems nowadays is that the production and consumption of electricity needs to be exactly the same at all time. Therefore if there is plenty of wind and sun and no consumption, like on a holiday for instance there is too much electricity production and they need to lower the production. So not the whole potential is used that day. A possible solution is the storage of the  extra energy based on the principle of the reservoir of Coo. In this reservoir water is pumped from the river in the reservoir when there is an overproduction of electricity. When more electricity is needed, water flows from the reservoir back into the river creating power by flowing through turbines. The idea is to build one small energy island, that uses this principle, in front of Zeebrugge and a large one in front of Wenduine. The large island would be able to produce around 300 MW(Knack, 2013; Le Bacq, 2013).

foto_atol

The purpose of the energy islands remain in the fact that owners of offshore wind farms get a lower price when there is overproduction. So if they can store the energy they can get a higher price for the produced electricity at a later moment. Also the water reservoir island can be used to anticipate peak consumption of the country. If there is an energy surplus they pump water out of the hole into the sea and when there is energy deficit they let seawater flow through turbines into the hole. The efficiency would be between 75% and 80%(Express, n.d.).

The Zeebrugge port authorities, the engineering company Ecorem and Deme-daughter company Rent-a-port are investigating the implementation of an energy island in front of Zeebrugge. This would be considered as a small island. The studies are almost finished according to Joachim Coens. Also Deme is negotiating with Belwind and C-Power, the exploiters of the already existing wind farms.

Mostly there is at moment no certainty about the price tag, but it will probably cost between 700 million  and 1,5 billion Euro. At the moment nobody did an accurate calculation(Le Bacq, 2013; Sertyn, 2013).

To make the implementation of such islands possible, the government needs to clear an area in the North Sea predestinated for this kind of projects. Vice prime minister and minister of the North Sea Johan Vande Lanotte has made a provisionally plan where there is one area reserved. His goal is to have a definitive plan before the end of 2013(Sertyn, 2013).

The location of the energy island is 12 kilometers offshore and in front of Wenduine. In the past there was a lot of commotion for offshore wind energy parks because they would be visible from the shore. Johan Vande Lanotte concludes that the energy islands wouldn’t have the same problem because they would look like a band of sand from a large distance (figure 2). Also nobody would be allowed to build on the islands. Nevertheless it is not clear if his environmental plan also takes a large energy island in front of Zeebrugge into account(Express, n.d.).

doorsnede_atol

We think that it could be a good solution but on the contrary it’s a very big investment in a time of crisis. Using the principle of the reservoir of Coo is a good thing because this has proven to work during the years. The fact that it wouldn’t be visible from the shore is very positive because this would lower possible protests. However it’s important to predict the impact on the nature, because shifting large amounts of water in a short time could induce big problems . There are rumors that it isn’t that profitable as it looks. So there needs to be a lot of research and the studies already done need to be verified.  It is important that if they conclude to implement such an island, they place this island in that place where the best efficiencies could be achieved. Maybe other locations in front the Belgian shore would be more suited for such an installation or maybe even other locations in Europe.

Sources

Express. (n.d.). Kunstmatig energie-eiland voor Belgische kust | ODE. Retrieved April 10, 2013, from link

Knack. (2013, February 27). Vande Lanotte wil eind 2013 ontwerp voor energie-eiland. Knack.be. Retrieved April 10, 2013, from link

Le Bacq, T. (2013, January 18). “Wereld zal jaloers zijn op Belgisch energie-eiland”. http://www.nieuwsblad.be. Retrieved April 10, 2013, from link

Sertyn, P. (2013, January 18). België bakermat van energie-atollen. http://www.standaard.be. Retrieved April 10, 2013, from link 

 

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