Belgian Cabinet Agrees to Expand Key Offshore Wind Zone to 3.5 GW

The Belgian government has confirmed plans to expand the offshore wind capacity that will be made available in the Princess Elisabeth zone in the North Sea to up to 3.5 GW. The area was originally planned to host about 1.75 GW of offshore wind capacity. Covering an area of 281 sq km, Princess Elisabeth will be Belgium’s second offshore wind zone. The first one, home to eight wind farms totaling 2.26 GW, was fully completed in 2020 with the commissioning of the Northwester II and the SeaMade parks.

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The country’s Council of Ministers said it agreed to the change at a meeting on Friday.

The Princess Elisabeth zone will be awarded through a competitive bidding process that will give winners concessions for developing and installing offshore wind parks west off the Belgian coast. The zone itself consists of three separate areas — Noordhinder Noord, Noordhinder Zuid and Fairybank — which are described in the country’s 2020-2026 marine spatial adopted in March 2020.

According to the latest decision, the zone will host between 3.15 GW and 3.5 GW of offshore turbines.

With almost 75% of its energy mix made up of nuclear energy and gas, Belgium has high hopes from offshore wind to diversify away from nuclear energy, even as its overall emissions, thanks to the high share of nuclear, remain lower than many other European countries. Till recently, the country had committed to phasing out nuclear power, but like many other parts of the world, the country might have to rethink those plans, as gas prices have made a huge impact on its power costs so far.

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