Strong wind modelling capabilities and policy expertise results in increased capacity for the Princess Elisabeth zone

The Belgian federal government plans to auction concessions for a second offshore wind zone in the North Sea, the so-called the Princess Elisabeth zone. The government wanted to know whether it can increase the capacity of the zone and the individual lots without much penalty on the cost of the offshore wind production.

Increasing the density of wind turbines could lead to considerable wake effects lowering the overall energy production of the zone and hence, increasing the cost of the offshore electricity.

3E together with the Von Karman Institute for Fluid Dynamics won the competition to analyse the Levelised Cost of Energy of offshore wind Energy (LCOE) in the new zone under different scenarios of density, lot sizes, turbine sizes and grid connections.

“For this study we brought together our best wind modelling capabilities with our finest policy expertise. Providing clear policy advice on the basis of the simulation of 63 scenarios is a daunting task. We are proud the federal government trusted us with this study and even more so that they trusted our conclusions and decided to effectively increase the capacity of the Princess Elisabeth zone.”

Jan Cornillie, Project Manager 3E

3E designed a purpose-build LCOE model, integrating our own yield assessment with the advanced wake effect modelling by Von Karman. We ran 63 different scenarios and compared it to a reference scenario. Starting from the reference scenario, Pareto improvements are possible when the same capacity can be built at lower cost or greater capacity can be built at the same cost.

Our modelling showed that Pareto improvements can be achieved by installing larger wind turbines, defining larger lot sizes, and connecting to the grid via an energy island for capacities greater than 3150 MW. These improvements can also be combined and used to compensate for the higher LCOE due to an increase in total capacity. The difference between the reference scenario and the maximal capacity scenario of 3500 MW can be reduced to 0.4 €/MWh by choosing bigger lot sizes, connecting via an island and the installation of the highest turbine sizes. Based on the study by 3E and Von Karman, the government subsequently decided to increase the overall capacity of the zone from 3.15 to 3.5 GW.

“Development of offshore wind in the Belgian North Sea is essential for the future of our energy supply. More offshore wind capacity is bringing us closer to energy security, reduces the carbon footprint of the European electricity system and creates additional opportunities for the Belgian offshore cluster. I am grateful I could rely on top Belgian scientific offshore wind expertise to prepare the ground for this monumental decision.“

Tinne Vanderstraeten, Federal Minister of Energy