EWEA Team Set Out to See Thornton Bank Offshore Wind Farm (Belgium)


Sparkling on the horizon from the Belgian seaside resort of Oostende stands the Thornton Bank offshore wind farm. Last week the EWEA team set out to see these turbines – six tall towers which form phase one of the offshore farm’s development – up close and personal.

At some 30km from the coast the 5 MW C-Power turbines are part of the world’s first wind farm to be built so far from the shore. Nearly two hours by boat led to destination and they were able to view the turbines standing proud in the middle of the North Sea rooted into the Belgian Continental Shelf.

Nearby the six original turbines, foundations are being laid for the second stage of development – another 24 turbines of 6.15 MW due to be built in 2011 – 2013. A third phase – another 24 6 MW turbines – is also planned.

The turbines seem isolated in their own maritime world, but there is a whole array of competing interests for the sea that led to their precise location. The farm’s planners had to take into account fishing zones, zones used for military drills and anti-mine activities, the large number of gas pipe lines and telecommunication cables that cross Belgian territorial waters, wildlife preservation areas under EU nature protection rules, shipping lanes through the North Sea and from Zeebrugge and radar supervision zones of the shipping routes. And that’s in addition to finding sand banks large enough to support a wind farm.

Belgium’s Thornton Bank wind farm once fully completed will have a total installed capacity of 325 MW which will provide enough electricity to power 600,000 households with renewable energy. The project on its own will represent 10% of Belgium’s renewable energy target for 2020, avoiding 450,000 tonnes of carbon emissions per year. It’s quite impressive to think that just 54 turbines can achieve this.

Heading back to shore watching the turbines get smaller and smaller on the horizon with a wind whipping across the deck, you become aware of the unlimited power in the wind, and particular offshore. A European Environment Agency study found that Europe’s offshore wind power’s potential in 2020 is 2,600 TWh equal to between 60% and 70% of the projected EU electricity demand by that time .


Source: EWEA, July 06, 2011;