European Union saves 330 MW Belwind windfarm

LUXEMBOURG - One of Europe's largest windfarm projects has been saved by an injection of 300 million euros from the European Investment Bank (EIB), the financial arm of the European Union.

The Belwind offshore wind project, which will have a power generation capacity of 330 megawatts (MW) when complete, has now obtained 546 million euros in funding, and construction will start September 1. Funding was scheduled to close in May, but the original Dutch developer, Evelop, went under when its holding company Econcern NV filed for bankruptcy. The project is now owned by a company owned by a consortium of Belgian and Dutch investors including PMV, Meewind and Rabo Project Equity.

This is the first time that the EIB has stepped in to rescue an offshore windfarm by assuming the project finance risk. Including Belwind, the EIB has supported six renewable energy projects totalling 1,000 MW to date, with financing amounting to 1.1 billion euros.

Located on the Bligh Bank, 46 kilometres off the coast of Zeebrugge, Belgium, the first 165-MW phase will see the erection of 55 V90 turbines, each with a capacity of 3 MW, from Vestas Wind Systems A/S. The 165 MW generated by Belwind Phase I will provide enough electricity for approximately 175,000 households and will reduce carbon-dioxide emissions by 270,000 tonnes per year. The 540 gigawatt-hours of renewable electricity produced per year accounts for approximately 6% of the renewable energy goals for the Belgium government. Construction is expected to be completed in 18 months.

Van Oord, the Dutch marine engineering firm, secured the 280 million euro contract to build Phase I, which should be completed in November next year. Pieter van Oord, CEO of Van Oord, said, "This is Van Oord's second EPC (engineering, procurement and construction) contract. Earlier, we completed the Princess Amalia windfarm project off the coast of Ijmuiden in the Netherlands."

As well as constructing the foundations and placing the 55 turbines, Van Oord will handle the subsea cabling between the windfarms, the subsea export cable, and the 165-MW offshore high-voltage station.

Frank Coenen, Project Director of Belwind NV said, "This is a real milestone, both for the development of renewable energy assets in Belgium and the financing of such projects. The strong backing from partners has allowed us to get to the construction stage in just three and a half years--a record-breaking short amount of time."

Energy company Electrabel SA will purchase the power generated by the project.

"We are proud to be supplying turbines for the Bligh Bank Offshore Windfarm, said Anders Søe-Jensen, President of Vestas Offshore. "Furthermore, we are very pleased to see this group of investors showing their confidence in the potential of offshore wind and we look forward to securing them a successful implementation of the project."

Vestas is currently in the process of shutting down the company's wind turbine manufacturing plant on the Isle of Wight in the UK, leading to the loss of almost 600 jobs.



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