Wind energy production breaks record
On Tuesday the country’s wind turbines generated a record 12% of the total energy consumption for the day. The wind power production came that day very close to the European guideline of 13% green energy by 2020, but the high production of 29.103 MwH was unusual as it was a particularly windy day. The average wind turbine in Belgium runs on a quarter of its capacity, with wind energy making up only about 2.5% of all energy consumption in the country this year compared to about 8% and 10% in respectively Germany and Spain. Of the 600 turbines in Belgium, 228 are in Flanders. When it comes to power, Flanders stood at 420 megawatt for the past year, Wallonia at 576 and the North Sea at 380 megawatt. At 1 375 megawatt, the total exceeds the 1 038 megawatt generated by the Doel 4 nuclear reactor. In the next few years the number of wind turbines is expected to increase considerably. The umbrella organization for the entire wind energy industry, the Flemish Wind Energy Association VWEA, hopes to reach its target of 1 500 MW For Flanders and 2 800 MW for the North Sea production. At present the Belgian section of the North Sea only has the Belwind and C-power wind farms, but so far another five have been granted a domain concession. Meanwhile the first steps have also been taken to go ahead with the so-called socket at sea, which will provide a central junction for wind turbines at sea. “Running a country completely on wind energy is theoretically possible,” enthuses president of the European Wind Energy Association EWEA Chris Derde. To make this become real, Belgium would need a total of 2 500 turbines. Personally he prefers a combination model that uses both wind and solar energy and eventually supplemented by other sources of bio-energy. “In summer we have many wind-free days, but with a lot of sun. The two complement each other very well.” The Federal Planning Bureau, the Flemish institute for Technological Research VITO and the Walloon ICEDD share his view following their survey commissioned by the four Belgian energy ministers late last year that showed that a conversion of the Belgian energy system to 100% renewable energy was ‘feasible’, but that it would cost 400 billion euros, exceeding the country’s annual GDP. When, on some days, there is a surplus supply, the only option is selling it to neighbouring countries. Minister for the North Sea Johan Vande Lanotte SP.A is currently exploring the possibility of an energy island on the Wenduine coast that could store the energy generated by the seven wind farms. Based on the concept of a water pump, water is pumped to a higher area when there is a surplus energy. At times of shortages the water is released to generate energy. The government’s continuous drive to encourage investments in wind energy includes the issuing of green certificates to green current suppliers, with the allocation to wind farm owners varying according to the current they produce. Most energy suppliers invest in solar and wind energy generation themselves and supplement their own production with purchased certificates, as they are legally obliged to sell green energy to a certain extent. This additional price is then covered by the consumer. Price hikes for household use are therefore quite likely to become a reality in the future if more offshore turbines are to be built.