Wallonia, the French-speaking part of Belgium, is considering placing wind turbines along its motorways to meet its ambitious renewable energy targets, Carlo Di Antonio, the Belgian minister of public works has announced.
The minister told Belgian radio at the end of June that he planned to come forward with a plan “in a few weeks” that will show how wind turbines can be placed “almost exclusively” along motorways and their service roads.
The plan is expected to show how a combination of large turbines of around 350 kw and medium turbines of 30-350 kw could meet Wallonia’s target of producing 4,500 GWh a year of electricity from wind by 2020. This target is a considerable increase from the 1,200 GWh generated by wind in the country today.
At the end of February, the government of Wallonia took the first steps to give greater certainty to the development of future wind turbines, when it finally agreed a new regulatory framework for the sector. It also published a draft map showing the areas in the region most likely to produce the most wind power.
Mr Di Antonio’s announcement is the next step aimed at making the government’s goals reality. Placing wind turbines the length of busy motorways would have the advantage of them being managed entirely by public money on public land. They would therefore also generate financial income for the region, said the minister. Erecting turbines next to the roads would likewise have a reduced impact on the countryside, he added.
The minister also claimed that such an approach would produce less potential noise pollution since any noise from the turbines would be covered by the sound of the motorway. That wind turbines are noisy is a common misconception, sometimes created by anti-wind energy groups, as a study in Australia found. Various studies have proven that wind turbines do not generate infrasound (low-frequency sound which is lower in frequency than 20 Hertz or cycles per second, the “normal” limit of human hearing) at a level that would damage human health.
The Bavarian Environment Agency in Germany also found in a recent study that wind energy structures generate infrasound which is far below normal human hearing and perception and cannot therefore cause any damage to people.
Wind power in Belgium as a whole – in both Wallonia and Flemish-speaking Flanders – is making the country’s energy supply greener and more sustainable, and boosting its ailing economy. Wind energy’s contribution to Belgian GDP has risen by 69% in four years, according to a study by consultants Deloitte. The sector has brought €335.3 million to the Belgian economy, saved the country €11.7 million in CO2 costs in 2011, while wind energy jobs have increased by 74%. See an EWEA blog post on the benefits of wind energy to Belgium here.