Towards a strong, future-oriented and reliable electricity grid
On our way towards sustainable energy
In the coming years, there will be an increasing focus on renewable energy. With a new wind turbine zone off the coast, the capacity of wind energy on the North Sea will be further increased to almost 6 GW by 2030. New connections with other countries (interconnectors) will also increase energy exchange with the United Kingdom and Denmark. All that extra green energy is needed because there is increasing demand for it, for example because of the rise of electric cars. Ventilus brings this energy to families and businesses. In addition, it provides a more robust and reliable electricity grid, both in West Flanders and in Belgium.
In the interest of society
With the Ventilus project, Elia provides a strong, future-oriented and reliable electricity grid. The project has several objectives:
- Supporting the energy transition
The energy transition has been irreversibly triggered by national, European and international political decisions. To reduce greenhouse gas emissions, we are switching from fossil fuels to renewable energy. In the coming years, therefore, more and more green electricity will be generated in the Belgian part of the North Sea and in West Flanders. Thanks to Ventilus, this renewable energy reaches families and companies. The new electricity connection thus contributes to climate goals.
- Bringing offshore wind to shore
Our North Sea will become the access point for renewable energy in the future. For example, the expansion of wind turbine capacity off our Belgian coast will generate extra green energy. New connections with other countries (interconnectors) will also increase the exchange of renewable energy with, among others, the United Kingdom and Denmark. Ventilus will bring this energy ashore and thus strengthen the electricity grid in West Flanders and Belgium.
- Enabling additional energy generation in West Flanders
West Flanders is catching up significantly in terms of (wind) energy production on land. This is also necessary to continue to meet rising energy demand, including from companies. These production installations must be connected to the electricity grid as soon as the government licenses them.
- Increasing the reliability of the electricity grid
In order to prepare the high-voltage grid for the future, Ventilus will make a loop with the existing Stevin high-voltage connection. This will create several routes for the transport of electricity. This so-called meshing increases the system reliability of the electricity grid in the event of incidents or maintenance and allows more energy to be transported with less infrastructure.
The Ventilus project consists of various building blocks:
- Energy island landing
The realisation of the “Princess Elisabeth Island” (MOG II project) has two objectives:
- Integrate the Princess Elisabeth Zone. This wind turbine zone in the North Sea was designated in the Marine Spatial Plan 2020-2026 for the generation of renewable energy in the Belgian electricity system.
- Improve access to green energy generated elsewhere in the North Sea. This is done through connections with other countries, also known as interconnectors.
A combination of alternating current and direct current cable connections is used to bring the energy from the energy island to shore. These sea cables are brought to shore at a so-called landing site and connected to underground land cables. These cables are in turn connected to a new high-voltage substation. The cables will be operated at a lower voltage level (220 kV), which makes it technically possible to lay them underground. In addition, these cables will transport a lower power of a total of 3.6 gigawatts (GW). This is the power of the energy hub, distributed over six alternating current cables and one direct-current cable system.
- New high-voltage substations and new converter station
In a high-voltage substation, the electricity is converted from a higher to a lower voltage level or vice versa. A high-voltage substation is therefore an important junction to transport electricity (at a high voltage level) or to bring it to households or businesses (via a lower voltage level). For this reason, various high-voltage substations (Izegem, Zeebrugge and Bruges) will be expanded on the entire Ventilus route. There will also be a new converter station to convert direct current from the energy island to alternating current.
- Overhead line
A new high-voltage connection (380 kV) ensures that the new high-voltage substation is connected to the existing electricity grid. This overhead line will connect the new high-voltage substation to the high-voltage substation in Avelgem. To make this possible, the existing high-voltage substation in Izegem will be expanded. The new connection will also be connected to the Stevin connection. This is an existing overhead line in the north of West Flanders to which the first series of wind turbine farms in the sea was connected.
- Partly underground
Where possible, the connecion will be laid using underground cables. Studies have shown that it is technically possible to lay a section of the high-voltage connection underground over a distance of 8 to 12 km.
The preferred route for the Ventilus high-voltage line – as announced by the Flemish Government on Friday 31 March 2023 – can be seen on the map below.
The Flemish Government’s choice of route takes into account the principles of good spatial planning:
1. Strengthening existing lines
2. Reusing existing routes
3. Bundling with existing linear structures such as roads and rivers or existing routes
4. If the above options are not possible, a new route will be examined
5. The total length of the above-ground grid may not be extended (stand-still principle)
TechnologyA high-voltage connection can be built and operated with various technologies. The technology chosen must be reliable and in line with the needs of the electricity grid. For Ventilus, this technology choice was examined extensively. A technology study was carried out in preparation for the 2019 starting memorandum. A group of six independent experts then carried out a double-check of this technology study in 2020. At the request of the citizens’ platforms, this was supplemented by an opinion from the HVDC Centre in Scotland. In 2021, Flemish Minister Zuhal Demir appointed Guy Vloebergh as public official. He and his team also studied the most appropriate technology and engaged independently with all those involved. Finally, German Professor Dirk Westermann also discussed the technology choice for the project in 2022. All the studies came to the same conclusion: technically, an alternating current overhead line, with a partly underground route of 8 to 12 km, is the best choice for Ventilus. The study reports (in Dutch) can be found at omgeving.vlaanderen.be.
Ventilus follows an integrated planning process, drawn up by the Flemish government. More information (in Dutch) about the procedure can be found at omgeving.vlaanderen.be and in the diagram below. From step 8 (project EIR), Elia is in charge of the process.
25 September 2023
Public information sessions on Ventilus Regional Land Use Plan (GRUP) design set to start
The Environment Department is organising information sessions in connection with the public consultation for the draft Ventilus Regional Land Use Plan (GRUP), running from 29 August to 27 October. The first information session for the general public is taking place today in Zedelgem.
07 July 2023
Next step in the project
Today, the Flemish Government has provisionally established the draft Ventilus Regional Land Use Plan (Gewestelijk Ruimtelijk Uitvoeringsplan or GRUP). A public enquiry will be held after the summer.