Europe is the world leader in offshore wind energy. In 2020, 5,402 turbines were installed and connected to the power grid in European seas. This represents a total capacity of 25,014 MW spread over twelve different countries (Offshore wind in Europe: Key trends and statistics 2020).
In Belgium, eight wind farms were operational at the end of 2020 (C-Power, Belwind, Nobelwind, Northwind, Rentel, Norther, Seamade and Northwester 2), consisting of 399 wind turbines spread over an area of 238 km² and amounting to a total installed capacity of 2,262 MW. This puts us in 2020 in fourth place within Europe (after the United Kingdom, Germany and the Netherlands) and in fifth place worldwide, after China. This capacity corresponds to 10% of total Belgian power consumption and approximately 50% of the power consumption by households (MUMM, BOP, Van Quickenborne 2020, Rumes and Brabant 2020). With the marine spatial plan 2020-2026, a new 281 km2 zone for offshore energy production was made available in 2020. This zone, the Princess Elisabeth zone (composed of: Fairybank, Noordhinder-Noord, Noordhinder-Zuid), should increase the offshore wind capacity on the Belgian part of the North Sea (BNS) to at least 4 GW (BOP, MSP 2020-2026, Rumes and Brabant 2020).
Due to the increasing importance of energy production at sea, there is a growing demand for submarine power cables for the transport of power. The development of wind energy and, by extension, offshore energy in the BNS was initially accompanied by separate connections to the land grid. With the installation of a Modular Offshore Grid (MOG), a more clustered approach is followed for the Rentel, Seamade and Northwester 2 wind parks (Federaal ontwikkelingsplan van het transmissienet 2020-2030). In addition, there is the Nemo Link, a bidirectional high-voltage direct-current connection between the UK and Belgium that will provide an improved power connection between the UK and continental Europe. To connect the power generated by the wind farms yet to be built in the new Princess Elisabeth zone to the Belgian electricity grid, an additional high-voltage connection from inland to the coast has been included in the Federaal ontwikkelingsplan van het transmissienet 2020-2030, the so called Ventilus project.
In the BNS, there are also three submarine pipes (Zeepipe, Franpipe and Innterconnetor), two of which (the Zeepipe and the Interconnector pipel) connect to the port of Zeebrugge (Fluxys). Combined, those pipes have a total length of 163 km in the BNS. Finally, there are 16 telecommunications cables on the BNS with a total length of 914 km.
More information about the topic of Energy at the Belgian North Sea and coastal area can be found on the website of the Compendium for Coast and Sea.
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