Offshore wind, Princess Elisabeth Zone: the first island off the North Sea

This is how Belgium is applying to have the first offshore renewable power plant

The North Sea has officially applied to become the Europe’s renewable electricity powerhouse. Belgium, specifically, has focused on offshore wind with a very innovative project. It consists in the creation of a first artificial energy island in the world. It will be called Princess Elisabeth Island and will be located 45 kilometers from the Belgian coast.

This island will have a diameter of 280 meters, therefore circular in shape, occupying an area of ​​six hectares. The size, in short, is the equivalent of 12 football items and will be able to host an infrastructure which acts as a link between 3.5 gigawatts of power provided by wind turbines and the mainland.

The wind farms located off the coast of United Kingdom and of Denmark they could become a source of exchange with Princess Elizabeth Island, effectively becoming an energy hub.

The importance of renewables

Renewable energy requires ever greater attention. Reducing the use of fossil fuels, in fact, is not only on the agenda of the European Union and the member states, but should be a daily reminder for each inhabitant of Planet Earth. Therefore, an energy revolution of this type could be able to change or at least slow down the disasters that climate change is causing in many areas of the world.

The Belgian transmission network will be managed by the Elia company which obtained the permit for construction of the island in October 2023.

Why should these offshore islands be a sustainable solution? The production of electricity, through self-sufficient systems, allows the energy generated from renewable sources to be exploited in a “healthy” way. The winds of the North Sea, for this purpose, represent a great possibility of production and distribution of wind energy.

The project

Construction of the island is planned from 2024 to mid-2026. Subsequently we will move on to the construction and commissioning of the electrical infrastructure. The project envisages a schedule that will end in 2030. The connection of the wind farms to the Elia network is linked to the commissioning of the projects to strengthen the English and Danish onshore network.

This project has the ambition of presenting itself as a precursor of future infrastructure constructions at sea. As part of the environmental authorization request for the energy island Princess Elisabeth, and in particular in the environmental impact report that accompanies it, Elia has paid close attention to limiting the effects of its activities on the marine ecosystem, in terms of alternatives studied for the establishment of the energy island and methods of implementation. The design of the island (shape, orientation, etc.) contributes significantly to limiting negative effects.

“To go even further, Elia has chosen to pave the way for a truly inclusive design of nature for the energy island – we read in the project sheet -. Not only will it minimize any harmful effects on the marine environment, Elia also wanted to take this opportunity to add real ecological and environmental value to his project. In parallel with the preparation of the authorization application, a unique and innovative co-creation process took place involving an infrastructure manager and several experts from various institutions, universities, design studios and NGOs.”