Posted on March 6, 2023
The first phase of construction contracts has been awarded for the world’s first man-made “energy island,” to be built by Belgium as part of a plan to develop an integrated European offshore electricity grid. After a year-long process, the contract was awarded to a Belgian consortium between Jan de Nul and DEME that will utilize their specialized fleets and long-experience in offshore construction.
The concept for the island was detailed last October, 10 months after the bidding process had begun. Belgian transmission system operator Elia is spearheading the effort calling for the man-made island to be built nearly 30 miles off the coast near Belgium’s Princess Elisabeth wind zone. The area on the island for the electrical infrastructure will be nearly 15 acres and the island will also include a small harbor for offshore service vessels as well as a helicopter platform used to bring maintenance personnel to the facility.
The concept is to provide a centralized location that will serve as the link between Belgium’s new offshore wind farm zone and the onshore high-voltage grid. Plans call for the zone to generate up to 3.5 GW of high-voltage power. The electrical infrastructure on the island will gather the power and transform it to 220 kV for transport to the mainland. In detailing the project, Elia highlighted the first-of-its-kind capability that combines both direct and alternating current saying the hybrid interconnects of the island would provide a more efficient transmission system.
The longer-term vision is for a broader interconnect system that would link hubs across various countries in northern Europe. Denmark proposed a similar artificial energy island in its plans while Belgium suggests there could also be connections with Great Britain.
“This project is a pioneering one for several reasons,” says Chris Peeters, CEO at Elia Group. “It is the most cost-effective and reliable way to bring offshore wind to shore. It will be an island that provides options for the future. When we connect it to other countries, Princess Elisabeth Island will become the first offshore energy hub. After our construction of the first hybrid interconnector in the Baltic Sea, the island is another world first.”
Now that the construction contract has been awarded, the plan calls for finalizing the design of the island. Construction is expected to begin in early 2024 and run till August 2026. The Belgian government has decided to award the island with a grant of approximately €100 million to support its construction.
According to the partnership between DEME and Jan De Nul known as TM Edition, the island will be built from concrete caissons filled with sand. They will be installed in 2024 and 2025 and they will form the contours of the island. With the caissons in place, the base of the island will be raised and prepared for the construction of the electrical infrastructure. Installation of the high-voltage equipment would start after August of 2026 as the second phase of the project.
To complete the project, it will also require reinforcement projects for the onshore power grids. Elia says it aims to ensure all the wind farms are connected to the mainland by 2030. They believe the island will be a vital step toward realizing Europe’s goal to generate 300 GW of shore electricity by 2050.