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.
Freezing temperatures in both Belgium and Germany have put both countries’ power systems to the test this week, but neither country has experienced electricity blackouts despite the lack of nuclear power.
Two of Belgium’s seven nuclear reactors – Doel 3 and Tihange 2 – were switched off this summer, following the discovery of cracks, cutting 2,000 MW of electricity-generating capacity from Belgium’s electricity network. Even without this nuclear capacity online, the network survived this winter’s peak electricity demand of 13,166 MW on 17 January, L’Echo, a Belgian newspaper, reported.
Belgium’s electricity supply is guaranteed by a small amount of energy imports – including gas from the Netherlands and solar and wind from Germany – and a diverse energy portfolio, one in which renewable energy has a rising share, the paper said.
Wind energy’s contribution to Belgian GDP has risen by 69% in four years (2007-2011), new findings show. This is a rate far higher than the growth of GDP itself, making wind energy a catalyst for Belgium’s economic recovery. The wind sector brought €335.3 million to the Belgian economy in 2011.
The figures come from a Deloitte study which also finds that national wind energy jobs have increased by 74% while the overall employment rate has gone up by just 3.7% (a figure 20 times lower) since 2007.
Meet Philippa Jones, the EWEA blog’s new correspondent who this month explores plans for wind energy in Belgium’s French-speaking region…
Belgium is not known for its quick negotiating skills. It took politicians 541 days to agree a new government after the incumbent administration resigned in April 2010. After 30 months of negotiations, the leaders of French-speaking Wallonia finally submitted plans to revise legislation governing the development of wind power in the region last December.
Renewable energy producers are disappointed with the plans and last month submitted their views to the regional government, insisting that changes must be agreed quickly to allow the industry to move forward.
In a kingdom frequently divided by disagreement over matters political and beyond, it is heartening to see wind energy getting a resounding “yes” vote. The results of a survey published last week in Belgium show that 86% of Walloons – the French-speakers living in the south of the country – are pro wind energy.
What is most revealing in the results is the confirmation, once again, of the fact that when people live in the vicinity of a wind farm, they become much more actively pro-wind energy. The survey shows that a huge 91% of people with a wind farm in their area are favourable towards wind energy, while for those who do not live near a wind farm the figure is 62%.
And while the ‘NIMBY’ phenomenon is often considered to be one of the biggest obstacles to wind energy development, only 8% of people living near wind turbines said they “feared” the effects beforehand. Just a tiny minority of NIMBYs, then, and the majority of those were proven wrong: for three-quarters of this 8%, the fears proved to be unjustified once the turbines went up.