Whilst we get to explore many new innovations in the world of commercial energy production, we don’t get to use the term ‘donut-shaped’ very often – but that’s about to change thanks to a large-scale project being planned in Belgium. Announced earlier this week in Zeebrugge, Belgian ministers revealed their plans to build a dual-purpose energy ‘island’ off the coast of the North Sea. It’s purpose? To serve as a pumped-storage hydroelectricity facility for wind energy produced by wind farms both on land and off-shore.
The donut-shaped facility would use low-cost off-peak electricity to pump water into it’s storage structure then, in times of high electric demand, release the stored water through turbines in the centre of the column.
The same technology has been used in the Scottish highlands for some time, However Belgium say their energy island is the first of it’s kind to be built off-shore – helping tackle Belgium’s inherent restrictions of limited land and coastline to work with.
Belgium’s outside-of-the-box thinking has been forced by growing concerns from European Parliament over the Belgium’s aging nuclear power plants, and their continuing capability to create commercial energy for the country.
Following the Fukushima incident in Japan, many European Union countries have sought to find alternatives for nuclear power, but Belgium’s use of an ‘energy island’ could prove to be a viable alternative for countries where space on land is a premium, such as Holland, Denmark and Portugal.
Expected to take 5 years to build, the energy island form the keystone of an off-shore energy network that would produce 2,300 MW – a significant portion of the 3,000 MW produced at each of the two nuclear sites at Doel and Tihange
“We have a lot of energy from the wind mills and sometimes it just gets lost because there isn’t enough demand for the electricity,” said a spokeswoman for Belgium’s North Sea minister Johan Vande Lanotte.