Belgian Offshore Wind Farms Underperform as Lower Wind Speeds Hit

The 399 wind turbines spread over nine zones in the Belgian North Sea produced approximately 6.77 TWh of electricity in 2021, a 0.6 per cent increase compared to 6.73 TWh of electricity generated in 2020.

This corresponds to the annual electricity demand of almost two million households, or eight per cent of the total electricity demand in Belgium, according to the Belgian Offshore Platform (BOP). Only Denmark (18 per cent) and the United Kingdom (14 per cent) have a higher share of offshore wind energy in their electricity mix.

2021 was the first year in which the offshore wind energy zone located between 23 and 54 kilometres from the Belgian coast was fully operational.

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As of the end of 2020, the operational wind capacity in the Belgian North Sea amounted to 2,262 MW.

Operating at full capacity throughout a calendar year for the first time, the country’s eight offshore wind farms were projected to deliver around 8 TWh of electricity in 2021, corresponding to around 10 per cent of the total electricity demand in Belgium.

Capacity Factor Down

The capacity factor, or production factor, which measures the productivity of a power plant, was 34.4 per cent in 2021. This is lower than the average capacity factor for offshore wind in the Belgian North Sea, which is around 38 per cent. The lower capacity factor for offshore wind in 2021 is explained by less wind supply, as lower wind speeds were measured in 2021 compared to 2020, BOP said.

The wind farms were able to slightly exceed the 2020 production record in 2021, as the wind turbines installed in spring and autumn 2020 were for the first time operational during the full year, BOP said.

The turbines were running and therefore producing electricity for about 90 per cent of the time this year. In June, the quietest month at sea, this proportion was 79 per cent, while in November, the turbines operated 96 per cent of the time.

The total electricity demand in Belgium in 2021 was 84.4 TWh. After the decrease in electricity consumption in 2020, it is again close to the 2019 level of 84.9 TWh.

No New Capacity in Years to Come

There will be no new offshore wind capacity in the Belgian North Sea in 2022 and possibly up until 2025.

The federal government is working on an amendment to the legislative framework for the tender for up to 3.5 GW of additional offshore wind capacity in the new offshore wind zone, the Princess Elisabeth area.

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When these new wind farms can become fully operational depends on the federal government for the legislation surrounding the tender procedure, and on the grid operator that must be able to guarantee the connection to the onshore grid.

According to the current planning, the announcement of the winners of the tender is expected in 2024 and 2026. The first wind farm with a capacity of 700 MW could be connected by the end of 2026. The following farms could be connected from the beginning of 2028.

The wind farms at the three designated areas: Noordhinder North, Noordhinder South, and Fairybank will be connected to the mainland, and possibly to the grids of other countries, via an artificial energy island.

Photo: Otary/Illustration