Belgian TSO Elia inaugurates high-voltage line for offshore wind farm expansion

Belgian Transmission System Operator (TSO) Elia has officially inaugurated the Stevin high-voltage line in order to support the country’s high-voltage grid in West and East Flanders. 
Belgian TSO Elia inaugurates high-voltage line for offshore wind farm expansion

Belgian PM Charles Michel and Federal Minister of Energy Marie Christine Marghem officially inaugurated the line on 21st November. The 47 kilometre, 380 kV Stevin line, between Zeebrugge and Zomergem, is pioneering in that it will transport energy generated by new offshore wind farms to the mainland, encourage green energy projects in the region, support the growth of the Zeebrugge port area and facilitate exchange of energy with the UK via the subsea Nemo cable. It will be able to transport up to 3,000 MW, a capacity equal to that of three major nuclear power plants.

The Stevin project between Zomergem and Zeebrugge comprises a double 380- kV connection that runs both above (37 km) and below (10 km) ground. In addition to the overhead lines and cables, three new high-voltage substations have been built: the Stevin substation in Zeebrugge, Gezelle in Bruges (close to Herdersbrug) and Van Maerlant in Vivenkapelle (Damme). It transports wind energy generated offshore to the mainland via the connection to the Modular Offshore Grid (MOG0, built by Elia 40 kilometres off the Belgian coast. It bundles together the cables of future Belgian offshore installations and will connect other sustainable generation units, such as wind energy and CHP units, in the coastal region. From 2019, electricity will be exchanged with the UK via the first ever subsea cable between the UK and Belgium – the Nemo Link project. The line will also guarantee an enhanced electricity supply in West and East Flanders, particularly for the port of Zeebrugge.

The timeframe for obtaining the necessary permits has been set at seven years. Now the line is operational, Elia is moving on to the second phase of the project, involving the demolition of 53 kilometres of old lines (in Bruges, Damme, Maldegem and Eeklo), 35 km of which will be brought underground. This work will continue until 2020.

The Stevia line will utilise 80 new pylons, constructed from 3,000 tonnes of steel, which are connected to one another over a 47 kilometre stretch, with conductors spanning nearly 700 kilometres. 10 kilometres of the line are being brought underground – a first for Belgium and something rarely seen elsewhere in the world. The project employed a 250-strong workforce, made up of Elia employees and staff from around 30 subcontractors, and is the TSO’s biggest project in Belgium in rcent years.

“As a result of the Stevin project, we are forging the missing link between the mainland and the coast, with an energy hub in the North Sea” said Elia CEO Chris Peeters, emphasising the importance of the project for the Belgian energy system. “We were able to make this project a reality thanks to the support of our many partners in the field and close consultation with all stakeholders. I would like to sincerely thank all those involved, particularly the local authorities who provided constructive input on the best possible route for this vital high-voltage line.”

Federal Minister of Energy Marie Christine Marghem added that the project is pointing Belgium towards the future in that not only will it enable the country to bolster security of supply but will also allow further development of interconnections with neighbouring countries.

The total cost of the Stevin project, including all corresponding modifications to the existing high-voltage grid, amounts to approximately 340 million euros. The Elia Group comprises two electricity transmission system operators (TSOs): Elia Transmission in Belgium and (in cooperation with Industry Funds Management IFM) 50Hertz Transmission, which is one of Germany's four TSOs and is active in the north and east of the country. With more than 2,100 employees and a grid comprising around 18,300 kilometres of high-voltage connections serving 30 million end users, the Elia Group is one of Europe's top five system operators.

Image: Elia Group underground cabling (Photo: Elia System Operator)

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