Energy islands key to Europe’s future energy infrastructure

Energy Renewables

Europe – Nearly all of Europe’s 30 GW of offshore wind farms are linked to the energy system via subsea power cables that go from each individual wind farm back to home nation. Many of them will connect to new “energy islands” in the not-too-distant future, centralizing the transmission of the energy they create.

Some of these islands will also be linked to increase energy transfers between European countries.

Belgium and Denmark

Belgium and Denmark stated this year that they will integrate their offshore electricity systems, primarily by connecting the new energy islands they intend to develop with a subsea cable in the North Sea.

Belgium will begin construction on their island in 2024, in the Princess Elisabeth Zone, where they intend to install 3.5 GW of new offshore wind. The island will be built in a concrete modular shape that may be extended over time by the Belgian TSO Elia. The new wind farms will be connected to it, and a single set of cables will connect the island to the mainland. In addition to linking to Denmark’s proposed North Sea island, the Belgian island might serve as a landing spot for the new (second) interconnector Belgium plans to build to the United Kingdom. The European Recovery and Resilience Fund will contribute to the funding for Belgium’s island. The commissioning of the energy island’s electrical infrastructure will take place between 2026 and 2030.

Denmark will hold an auction in 2024 to determine who will construct its North Sea island. They hope to have it operational by 2030. In the Baltic Sea, they intend to turn Bornholm into an energy island using the same process and timeline. Between the two Danish islands, 5-6 GW of new offshore wind farms will be connected.

The Netherlands and Germany

The Netherlands and Germany are also working on energy islands in the North Sea. The Danish, Dutch, and German TSOs aim to collaborate to develop an island on the Dogger Bank that will be operational in the early 2030s. They also intend to link this so-called North Sea Wind Power Hub to the United Kingdom, Belgium, and Norway.

Future energy infrastructure

These energy islands will be critical components of Europe’s future energy infrastructure. They will house and other equipment that will allow offshore generating and storage to be integrated into the high voltage grid. They might house electrolyzers – which convert wind energy into renewable hydrogen – as well as energy storage facilities. This will assist to further synchronize offshore wind with onshore energy demand. Furthermore, islands will aid in the physical integration of offshore wind into the energy system by reducing the number of onshore landing locations for electricity generated at sea.

Photo: Danish Energy Agency