Jul 18 2016

Belwind Offshore Wind Farm Case Study

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Belwind is an environmental marvel of a kind located off of the Bligh Bank of which the world is only beginning to know its need. By using state of the art technology and solving problems which other offshore wind farms have had along the way, it has and will continue serve as a model for more offshore wind farms to come. Located in Belgium, this large wind farm has a current nameplate capacity of 165 MW. While this may not sound like much where the energy use of the world is in the TW range, it is an extremely high number for an area of land which is around  13 meters squared in total.

Haliade takes stage at Belwind image

Source: http://renews.biz/54492/haliade-takes-stage-at-belwind/

Since Belwind is located farther offshore, it is located in deeper water than most wind turbines are usually driven into. Water depths range from 15m to 37 m, so instead of bringing the wind turbines out in the traditional manner, the piles were moved using floatation (“Seabed”). This solution to a pressing problem for other offshore wind farms is so simple it is revolutionary. By floating these humongous piles to the site, less initial energy is needed in the construction phase which results in the return of electricity faster.

There are fifty-five wind turbines which were deployed in up to three phases (“Facts and Figures”). Deploying these wind turbines in a staggered fashion allowed Belwind to be able to modify their plans as well as correct problems they experienced in the process. This also made allowances for time to search for more investors after they had already proved they could make a return on the money they were given. The investment, in part, was financed through a 300 million EURO loan from the European Union Bank (“Belwind, Belgium’s Largest Renewable Energy Facility”).

In order to better understand the environment, Belwind went under a massive six-year environmental impact study. Since many places at which wind turbines could be economically constructed can only be studied once wind turbines are put into the area, it is difficult to fully understand the context of the environment.

A jack-up barge installs the first of the wind turbines.

Many processes were used by Belwind to ensure minimum harm to the natural habitat surrounding the site. These include seal scares and stopping or limiting construction when larval fish were spawning or when a substantial amount of marine life was known to be in the area (“Legal Provisions and Bodies”). Even though these precautions were taken during the construction period, this still constitutes a harmful sound over a long period of time which could perhaps affect the communication of the somewhat local seal rookery. So little is known about the long term effects of these projects, it is important to consider all options.

Source: http://cwmags.com/cw-1-3/basic/page9.php

Environmental regulation, as with putting anything out at sea, is strict because of the fragile nature of the marine environment. As of right now, the three wind turbine farms constrict the habitat of many native Belgium birds including Auks and Gannets (“Flora and Fauna”). The long term effect on their population will be telling in the effect which wind turbines have on the nesting of birds and other animals. As of right now, no additional studies have been made available to the public concerning the affects Belwind may have on current as well as wind speed. While this is a pertinent environmental concern, it may not be until after Belwind is decommissioned that scientists are able to take a look at the long term effects of wind turbines on the environment. Many speculations about the overall condition of the environment after the wind turbine is decommission are in Dutch.

Source: https://www.britannica.com/animal/razor-billed-auk

While the lifespan of Belwind is disappointing, the power it will provide the surrounding homes will be put to great use. By supplying power to around 150,000 homes, Belwind puts a dent into the fossil fuel driven energy sector (Facts and Figures). Change is slow, but for those homes, change came fast. Renewable energy is the wave of the future, and Belwind is only the first of many offshore turbine plants to come.

Bibliography

“Belgian Onshore and Offshore Wind Energy.” Belgium at the EWEA. EDORA, 15 Mar. 2011.

Web. 10 July 2016.

<http://www.edora.org/newsletters/docs/news_17.03.2011/slides_EWEA_conf_EDORA

_ODE.pdf>.

“Belwind, Belgium’s Largest Renewable Energy Facility.” EIB. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 July 2016.

<http://www.eib.org/attachments/documents/climate_action_case_study_belgium_en.pdf

>.

“Facts and Figures.” Belwind Offshore Energy. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 July 2016.

<http://www.belwind.eu/en/facts-and-figures/>.

“Flora and Fauna.” Belwind Offshore Energy. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 July 2016.

<http://www.belwind.eu/en/flora-and-fauna/>.

“Legal Provisions and Bodies.” Belwind Offshore Energy. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 July 2016.

<http://www.belwind.eu/en/legal-provisions-and-bodies/>.

“Seabed.” Belwind Offshore Energy. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 July 2016.

<http://www.belwind.eu/en/offshore-fishing/>.

“Shipping.” Belwind Offshore Energy. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 July 2016.

<http://www.belwind.eu/en/shipping/>.