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Belgium considers "ring island" energy storage scheme

Belgian officials are considering the construction of a massive new offshore hydroelectric energy storage project to help the country wean itself off nuclear power by 2025, HydroWorld.com has learned.

The project -- referred to as the "ring island" or "energy atoll" plan by officials -- would be built off Belgium's northern coast near Zeebrugge, and includes the construction of a three-kilometer-long, horseshoe-shaped island that would have a 30-meter-deep reservoir in its center.

Pumped-storage hydro turbines would be installed in the open end of the horseshoe, giving the hydro project a total generating capacity of about 300 MW, according to Zeebrugge's port authority, APZI.

Belgian officials said the project would mainly be used to help store its vast amount of wind capacity, which, as of 2011, equated to more than 1 GW of the country's overall capacity.

The thought is that excess wind power will be used to pump water from the interior of the horseshoe and into the sea. That water will then pass back into the reservoir and through the hydro turbine units when needed, effectively allowing the island to serve as a battery much like conventional pumped-storage facilities.

"We have a lot of energy from the wind mills and sometimes it just gets lost because there isn't enough demand for the electricity," a spokesperson for Deputy Prime Minister Johan Vande Lanotte told Reuters. "This is a great solution."

Belgium's federal energy regulator, Elia, said the project is still undergoing feasibility studies, but could be completed within seven years if approved.


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