Wind turbines are under construction everywhere. In the coming months they will be unmissable along Flemish roads, as an unprecedented building boom breaks out, a survey by De Standaard and green power companies reveals.
The result of the boom has been a sharp increase in wind power capacity in Flanders. Late last year the counter stood at 604 megawatts. Already during the second half of this year, 195 megawatts will be added. In comparison, the smallest nuclear reactors in our country – Doel 1 and 2 – each have a capacity of 433 megawatts.
Electrabel, Belgium’s largest electricity group, announced on 16 July that by the end of the year 25 new turbines will be built in our country. The majority of these, 20 units, will be north of the language border (separating French-speaking from Dutch-speaking Belgium). For the largest electricity producer in Belgium, this is the first big step toward doubling its wind power capacity by 2020. This requires an investment of €400m (£285m), of which half will be for the account of electric company Electrabel and the rest for the partners, such as municipalities and the rail infrastructure authority Infrabel.
The involvement of the railway is a big part of Electrabel’s largest wind-power project. Seven new turbines will be builtalong the E40 motorway between Louvain and Liège near Gingelom by the end of 2015, providing electricity for the Louvain-Liège railway line.
Electrabel already sees 2015 as a pivotal year for its wind-energy activities. According to Bart Bode from the Sustainable Energy Organisation (ODE) there is even talk of a turning point for the entire Flemish wind sector. But the wind turbine construction boom will not stop at the end of this year. “2016 will be a strong year too,” he predicts.
In particular there is much to be done in the port of Antwerp where there will be heavy investments in wind, with plans for another 18 turbines on the right bank of the river Scheldt.
According to Bode, one explanation for the building boom can be found in the reform of the green electricity subsidy system more than two years ago, . “Until then, the green power companies were only watching. Once there was clarity about the rules the light turned green.”
Chance played its part. Wind energy projects regularly encounter resistance from local residents, including lawsuits. “But a part of the plans can now be realised because the legal battle is resolved,” says Bode.
He is worried about the coming years because of rumours about problems of loan support for wind energy. The danger is that doubt could creep into the minds of investors.
That would be unjustified. If Flanders wants to fulfill its ambition of producing more than 20% of green electricity by 2020, there are a lot more turbines to be installed. Five hundred by 2020, estimates Nico Priem, the Electrabel manager responsible for renewable energy projects. The conclusion is that the construction boom still has a few years to run.
Translation by David Cribb/Vinclu for VoxEurop.
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