Belgium's electricity system operator, Elia, has commissioned International Marine & Dredging Consultants (IMDC) to carry out preparatory work for construction of marine cables linking offshore wind stations in Belgian waters to its onshore network.
The contract is worth €600,000 and will run until 2014. It will involve IMDC identifying potential routes, checking marine and seabed conditions for two planned offshore transformer platforms, advising on health, safety and environmental issues, and preparing documentation for the environmental impact assessment (EIA).
In February, Elia announced plans for a 'meshed' grid in the North Sea to be built in stages, in parallel with construction of seven wind farm concessions. The ultimate aim is for the construction of two offshore transformer stations - alpha (0.9GW) and beta (1.4GW) - in the North Sea, connected via 220kV cabling to each other and to the Stevin substation to be built near the port of Zeebrugge. The transformer stations will accommodate the 66kV and 220kV cables coming in from the different wind farms, Elia said.
At the time of the announcement, Elia said the project "may yield results as early as 2015," adding that the costs of the plan were being assessed and were therefore not included in its approved investment budget for the 2012-2015 period. Elia recently acknowledged that it will be looking to external investors to help it fund construction of the offshore electricity grid and to upgrade cross-border transmission lines that will allow it to sell offshore wind-generated electricity to its European neighbours. The Belgian state holds a 48% stake in Elia.