Science Gazette

Europe’s seas will soon be populated by energy islands

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Nearly every one of Europe’s 30 GW of offshore wind farms is linked to the energy grid by subsea power cables that run from each wind farm back to the mother country. Many of them will soon be connected to brand-new “energy islands,” which will concentrate the transmission of the energy they produce. Additionally, some of these islands will be connected to one another, which will enhance the flow of energy between European nations. Belgium and Denmark announced last year that they would link their offshore electricity grids, primarily by building the new energy islands they intend to construct and connecting them with a subsea cable in the North Sea.

In the Princess Elisabeth Zone, where they’re planning to build 3.5 GW of new offshore wind, Belgium will begin construction on their island in 2024. The island will be constructed by the Belgian TSO Elia using concrete modules that can be expanded over time. A single set of cables will then connect the island to the mainland after the new wind farms are connected to it. The Belgian Island may serve as the landing site for the new (second) interconnector Belgium plans to construct to the UK in addition to connecting to Denmark’s new North Sea Island. The European Recovery & Resilience Fund will provide some of the funding for Belgium’s island. Between 2026 and 2030, the electrical infrastructure on the energy island will be put into service.

Denmark will hold an auction in 2024 to choose who will construct their island in the North Sea. By 2030, they want to have it operational. The same procedure and timeframe will be used to turn Bornholm into an energy island in the Baltic Sea. Between them, the two Danish islands will be connected to 5–6 GW of new offshore wind farms. Working on energy islands in the North Sea are also the Netherlands and Germany. On the Dogger Bank, the Danish, Dutch, and German TSOs intend to construct an island that will be operational in the early 2030s. Additionally, they want to link the UK, Belgium, and Norway to this so-called North Sea Wind Power Hub.

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The future energy system in Europe will rely heavily on these energy islands. They will house and other machinery necessary for the high voltage grid to integrate offshore generation and storage into the system. They might house energy storage facilities as well as electrolysers that turn wind energy into clean hydrogen. This will make it easier to match onshore energy demand with offshore wind. Additionally, islands will lessen the number of onshore landing points for the energy produced at sea, which will aid in the physical integration of offshore wind into the energy system. Giles Dickson, CEO of WindEurope, declared: “Energy islands will soon become a reality. Additionally, they will be very helpful in enhancing international energy flows and integrating offshore wind into the energy system. It’s fantastic that Germany, Denmark, Belgium, and the Netherlands are collaborating on their development.

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