General – Energy Island
The Federal Government and Elia Transmission Belgium (Elia) have recently signed an agreement relating to financial support offered up as part of the Recovery & Resilience Facility (RRF).
The fund was established by the European Commission in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic to support future-oriented investments being undertaken by Member States. The RRF aims to make Europe’s economy greener and more robust – two objectives that are even more relevant given the current energy crisis.
The signing of the protocol which governs the €99.7 million grant being given to Elia took place in the presence of the Minister of Energy, Tinne Van der Straeten, the State Secretary for Economic Recovery and Strategic Investment, Thomas Dermine and Stefaan de Rynck, head of the European Commission’s Representation in Belgium.
An innovative masterpiece
The Princess Elisabeth Island will be a major energy hub. The artificial island will be located about 45 km off the Belgian coast and will almost exclusively house transmission infrastructure. The island will receive electricity produced by wind turbines located in the second offshore wind zone (3.5 GW) and will transform it from 66kV to 220kV.
This electricity will then be brought to land via a shared cable system. In time, the island will also serve as a hub for additional interconnectors with Great Britain (Nautilus) and Denmark (TritonLink). These hybrid interconnectors will have a dual function: they will allow electricity to be exchanged between countries and will also be connected to large offshore wind farms in the North Sea which will supply our country with large volumes of renewable energy.
Subsidy granted in line with strict conditions
Thanks to funding from the RRF, Elia will build the island’s foundations. Work on this will start in 2024 and must be completed by 31 August 2026. The foundations will be composed of concrete caissons filled with sand; the section of the foundations that will sit above the waterline will cover an area of about 5 hectares. The funding will be distributed in several instalments to Elia as project milestones are reached, such as the completion of the island’s design, the granting of the environmental permit or the start of the work on the caissons. The installation of the high-voltage infrastructure on the island will then begin.
€1 million for additional biodiversity projects
Of the €99.7 million subsidy being granted to Elia, €1 million will go to third-party projects that will contribute to encouraging biodiversity at sea. A call for projects will be launched for this purpose.
The Minister of Energy will decide which projects will be considered as part of this. These third-party projects will be delivered in addition to the Nature Inclusive Design approach that Elia has chosen to adopt for the island and is currently working on with a group of experts. Different measures and modifications to the design of the island will reduce its impact on the marine environment and improve local biodiversity.
“This signing ceremony marks the start of moving from the planning phase to the implementation phase, bringing us closer to building the very first energy island in the North Sea by 2026. The energy island will provide access to new wind farms from the Belgian North Sea and wind energy from Denmark and the United Kingdom. Thanks to the energy island, we will strengthen our energy independence, lower our bills and reduce CO2 emissions,” said Tinne Van der Straeten, Belgian Federal Minister of Energy.
The tendering process for the island is ongoing, as is the preparation of the environmental impact assessment, the preparation of the licensing process and the application for a domain concession. The foundation will begin to be constructed in 2024, with this work lasting until mid-2026. After that, the installation of the electrical infrastructure on the energy island will begin. The construction of future wind farms will be organised by the Government through tenders. The linking of the wind farms to Elia’s grid is related to the commissioning of onshore grid reinforcement projects; more specifically, the Ventilus and Boucle Du Hainaut projects. Elia is aiming for full connection capacity by 2030.