Elia Plans Several Measures to Boost Biodiversity Around World’s First Artificial Energy Island
Belgian transmission system operator (TSO) Elia has developed seven measures to boost biodiversity around Princess Elisabeth Island, the world’s first artificial energy island.
The artificial Princess Elisabeth Island will be an energy hub 45 kilometres off the Belgian coast connecting new wind farms and additional interconnections, to the UK and Denmark, to Belgium’s onshore power grid.
The island will house almost exclusively transmission infrastructure used to connect new wind farms of up to 3.5 GW capacity, as well as future interconnectors.
Covering six hectares, in the middle of the Princess Elisabeth Zone, Princess Elisabeth Island will be built on concrete caissons filled with sand.
The construction will take around two years and is expected to last from March 2024 to August 2026.
Elia partnered with several companies from the nature conservation and the marine environment field to develop Nature Inclusive Design (NID) measures.
Elia said that ledges will be attached to the storm wall on the south, west, and north sides of the energy island in the area above the spring tide line, allowing cliff-nesting birds such as the black-legged kittiwake to breed, rest, and recuperate.
Next, in the area submerged at high tide but lying above the water at low tide, the company will install relief panels at the four corners of Princess Elisabeth Island. The three-dimensional design of these panels will provide a structure to which smaller marine organisms can attach themselves. Smaller fish will also be able to shelter and forage there, according to Elia.
Higher up on the same corners, Elia plans to install longlines with oyster baskets for the European flat oysters. Their larvae could attach themselves to the optimally designed rock revetment around the island, thus promoting the growth of oyster reefs.
“This Nature Inclusive Design marks a major step forward in the protection of the marine environment when building wind turbines in protected marine areas, such as for the European flat oyster, which is reappearing in Belgium’s part of the North Sea for the first time in decades,” said Paul Van Tigchelt, Minister for the North Sea.
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In addition, the company plans to create chaotic scour protection with complex edges around the entire island.
As well as forming a smooth connection to the original gravel beds, this should also create a range of diverse habitats where different animal species can forage, shelter, and/or rest.
By placing larger boulders here and there, Elia will create additional complexity that will make the environment around the island all the more attractive to marine organisms, according to the TSO.
Near the corners and longlines, the company will also incorporate oyster tables in the chaotic scour protection, providing a boost for the creation of oyster reefs for the European flat oyster.
By incorporating biodiversityenhancing measures from the design and construction phase onwards, we aim to expand and accelerate positive impacts and inspire developers to undertake similar initiatives. This co-creation project with experts has already made an important contribution to scientific development in this field,” said Nicolas Beck, Head of Community Relations, Elia.
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