Plans for energy atoll in North Sea to be dropped

Summary

The North Sea minister will advise the council of ministers against the plan that would see energy from wind turbines gathered and stored 5km from the coast at De Haan

Cost not justified

A plan to build an artificial atoll off the Flemish coast for the production of wind and water energy should be scrapped, according to a proposal from North Sea minister Bart Tommelein that is supported by federal energy minister Marie-Christine Marghem.

The atoll was the brainchild of former North Sea minister Johan Vande Lanotte, now mayor of Ostend. It would be built off De Haan, five kilometres from the shore. The structure would gather surplus energy from offshore wind turbines and stock it, then release it to the national grid when demand was high.

However, Tommelein has concluded that the project is not viable and would lead to higher energy prices. The strategic need for such a project has also not been demonstrated, he argues. Marghem has ordered a number of studies, which show that the strategic importance of the plan is not high enough to justify the cost.

Tommelein told VTM News he now plans to advise the council of ministers not to grant the concession for the project to the consortium iLand, which includes dredging companies Jan De Nul and DEME, electricity producer Electrabel and three investment funds.

A spokesperson for coalition party N-VA – in opposition at the time the plan was launched – said he was “pleased that Tommelein has finally changed his mind”. N-VA parliamentarian Wilfried Vandaele said: “The future of energy storage is in batteries. Places like Germany are now investing fully in that. It’s a lot cheaper than building islands, and a lot more reliable for businesses.”

Photo: Economy ministry/Belga