What is offshore wind energy and
why do we need it?
Offshore wind energy means: generating electrical energy by means of wind turbines installed at sea. Usually, the wind blows faster and more steadily at sea than on land, resulting in higher and more stable energy yields than on land.
Because of the high population density in Belgium and the space already taken by buildings and other human activities, there is only little space left on land for wind turbines or wind parks. Nevertheless wind energy must contribute substantially to Belgian and European climate goals and therefore space is needed.
The sea remains a vast space and at first sight, there seems to be enough space for offshore wind parks, but appearances can be deceiving. Numerous users are claiming a part of the Belgian North Sea for cable laying, sea pipelines, dredging deposits, itineraries, ecological development, etc. As a consequence the space on sea is in fact very limited. Belgian offshore wind parks, including the three Otary Wind parks, are built in a specific zone. Yet it is true, larger wind parks can be built at sea. What’s more, larger wind turbines can be installed at sea. In the first phase, in total 2200 MW will be realized in the Belgian North Sea, which will cover over 10% of the Belgian electricity needs and will ensure a considerable contribution to obtain climate targets.
Offshore wind is the future
Because of the increasing population size and the climate change already started there is an urgent need for reliable, sustainable, but also renewable energy. Geological activities can jeopardize the security of energy supply, in particular energy from fossil fuels (oil, gas, uranium) and make countries often energy dependent. Offshore wind can mark a turning point while local production of sustainable energy and further development of Belgian offshore wind industry can ensure a higher supply security and makes Belgium less dependent on fossil energy (oil, gas and uranium) import.
Offshore wind energy contributes substantially to achieving the EU goals of renewable energy and halting global warming. Offshore wind energy is a crucial part of the Belgian climate strategy; without offshore wind farms, reaching the European 2020 targets would be impossible.
The offshore wind industry as a whole has already created thousands of jobs in Belgium and will continue to do so. Belgium has been one of the pioneers in offshore wind in Europe. Our knowledge, expertise and innovative solutions are exportable, as already shown daily by some Belgian companies worldwide.
During the development and construction phase, the average offshore wind project (approximately 300 MW) generates about 1400 direct jobs and a same number of indirect jobs. The exploitation phase generates approximately 100 new jobs per wind park. In practice, this means that the realization (between 2007 and 2020) of the total offshore wind energy potential in Belgium (2200 MW) creates approximately 20.000 jobs (expressed in man-years) during the development and construction phase and 800 new, permanent jobs during exploitation (min. 20 years).
Thanks to the knowledge and experience acquired by Belgian parties during the realization of the first offshore wind parks in Belgium, energy companies, maritime construction companies and a large number of suppliers are able to develop and export innovative techniques. This already manifests itself today by means of securing multiple international contracts for offshore wind energy.
Apart from the ecological necessity to continue to invest in offshore wind in the Belgian North Sea, the further development of the Belgian offshore wind industry presents also an economic opportunity: 16000 new jobs, 1 billion EUR/year benefit to Belgian economy and numerous export possibilities for Belgian companies in Europe and worldwide. Finally, for the energy system it remains important to continue to invest in new capacity in Belgium in order to recover the planned closure of nuclear power plants.
A number of Belgian companies are specializing in construction and exploitation of offshore wind parks. Various maritime services are not only investing in jobs but also in material (a.o. high-tech vessels and installation techniques), are offering innovative solutions and with this are enjoying a worldwide reputation. In addition, many suppliers are economically benefitting: delivery of wind turbine components, construction of foundations, production of high-voltage substations, etc. Besides the main contractors, a whole network of smaller suppliers is developing. A.o. engineering consultancies and soil investigation companies have specialized in offshore wind. Furthermore, many local jobs have been created in Belgian ports.