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Belgium plans new offshore wind zone in line with 4-GW goal

Thornton Bank offshore wind farm using Senvion turbines. Author: Jumanji Solar. License: Creative Commons, Attribution 2.0 Generic

April 23 (Renewables Now) - Belgium intends to double its wind development zone in the North Sea as part of a plan to boost its offshore wind capacity to 4 GW in the next decade.

Philippe De Backer, secretary of state for combating social fraud, privacy and the North Sea, said on Friday, as cited by national broadcaster VRT, that a new 221-sq-km (85-sq-mile) area will be made available after 2020, adding to the country’s existing 225-sq-km zone off the coast of Zeebrugge. The new zone will be between 35 km and 40 km into the sea and will not be disturbing the view from the coastline.

The expansion will allow the country to install wind turbines with enough capacity to replace some nuclear power capacity, supporting Belgium's strategy for growing renewables and phasing out nuclear power by 2025.

The new offshore wind capacity will be offered through public tenders that will not be backed by government subsidies. For that, Belgium has been inspired by the Netherlands and Germany, De Backer said, as cited by VRT. He noted that the speed at which a grid connection for all that power can be built remains a major challenge.

According to the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC), Belgium's offshore wind farm capacity had reached 877 MW by the end of 2017, after 165 MW were installed in the year. In October 2017, the government announced a deal on the support mechanism for three new offshore projects totalling 716 MW -- the 224-MW Northwester 2, 246-MW Mermaid and 246-MW Seastar. The negotiated price for these is EUR 79 (USD 97) per MWh.

De Backer’s announcement comes at a time when offshore wind costs are falling fast in tenders carried out in other European countries. Soon after completing its first subsidy-free offshore wind tender, the Dutch government in March announced its Offshore Wind Energy Roadmap 2030 which outlines plans for the country to reach 11.5 GW by 2030.

(EUR 1.0 = USD 1.228)

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Veselina Petrova is one of SeeNews Renewables most experienced green energy writers. For several years she has been keeping track of game-changing events both large and small projects and across the globe.

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