Belgium: Thorntonbank boosts offshore wind power production
Inaugurated in June 2009, the Thorntonbank wind farm located approximately 30 km off Ostend is the largest and most complex project ever undertaken in the offshore sector after Belwind. Once completed in 2013, it will generate 1000 GW of electricity a year, which is sufficient to meet the energy requirements of 600 000 inhabitants.
“The construction of wind power generators in the open sea, using 6.15 MW turbines, developed for the first time on a commercial scale and foundations of a completely new design, is a real challenge", stated Filip Martens, CEO of C-Power, the Belgian company responsible for Thorntonbank wind farm.
The first 30 MW phase came on line in June 2009. In this pilot phase, six wind generators, each with a capacity of 5 MW, were installed on the Thornton sandbank off Zeebrugge. They have already generated more than 155 GWh and achieved an availability rate of more than 97% over the last twelve months.
The new generation of 6.15 MW turbines that will be deployed in the second and third phases of the project have been developed from the 5 MW turbines that are currently in operation. They are designed to reduce the cost of offshore wind energy.
Thorntonbank should eventually consist of around sixty wind generators with a total installed capacity of 325 MW and an annual production of 1000 GW, the equivalent of the annual power consumption of a town with a population of 600 000. The energy produced will prevent the emission of around 450 000 t of CO2 a year into the environment. This wind farm will contribute 10% of the renewable energy capacity that Belgium needs to meet the EU target of 13% of energy generated from renewable energy sources by 2020. The construction of the entire wind farm is expected to be completed by end-2013.
Renewable energy operation of the year
A pioneer in the application of cutting-edge technology and with total financing requirements of EUR 1.3bn, the C-Power project has obtained a EUR 450m loan from the EIB. The guarantees provided to the project (amounting to EUR 150m) form part of a broader package involving seven commercial banks, the Euler-Hermes export credit institutions (Germany) and EKF (Denmark), as well as an EU grant under the European Energy Programme for Recovery (EEPR). The finance agreement concluded for this wind energy project was elected “renewable energy operation of the year" by the magazine Project Finance International.
A 100%European project
C-Power is a 100% European project: the wind generator blades come from Denmark, the steel comes partly from Poland and the engineering studies were carried out in Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Germany. The suppliers are German, Dutch and Italian and the offshore structures are installed by an investment partner DEME, an internationally renowned Belgian marine engineering group. In terms of employment - from the preliminary studies to the maintenance of the wind farm - 1900 man-years will be required to implement the project successfully.
EUR 2.8bn for offshore wind power
The promotion of renewable energy, energy efficiency, energy-related research, development and innovation activities and the security of supply are priority objectives of the EIB. In 2010, it channelled EUR 18bn into this area, including EUR 6bn for the exploitation of renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind energy. The EIB focuses on offshore wind energy in particular: since 2003, it has provided a total of EUR 2.8bn of support to ten offshore wind projects in Europe.