A study carried out by the Bureau fédérale du Plan (BFP) – an independent Belgian organisation that investigates questions of environmental and social importance – concluded that offshore wind farms could be key to achieving climate neutrality.
The results show that, on a national level, wind farms could allow Belgium to move away from more polluting energy sources. The study was conducted following an agreement made with Denmark to cooperate with infrastructure for offshore wind farms.
To put in place the turbines capable of producing such an effect, researchers proposed two options: installing a wind farm in Danish waters or one in both Danish and Dutch waters. In the first case, a capacity of three Gigawatts electricity could be produced; in the second, the second could produce 15 Gigawatts, Belga News Agency reports.
"This will clearly not satisfy Belgium's total energy demands, but to make use of the large quantities of renewable energy that this infrastructure would produce, a more flexible energy mix would need to be developed," researchers wrote in reference to the unpredictable nature of renewable energy sources that can vary greatly in their output.
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In order to accommodate for this fluctuating output, the researchers cite hydrogen production as a way to make use of excess electricity. Hydrogen is often touted as the energy source of the future thanks to its clean-burning credentials (it produces only water when burnt) and high energy output. However, producing hydrogen requires a lot of energy in the electrolysis process. To this end, surplus energy from renewables could be used for hydrogen production when supply outstrips demand elsewhere on the grid.
The study explains that "there are many ways to reach climate neutrality whilst both ensuring that supply can meet demand and that production costs are not too high. Whichever plan is decided upon, significant financial investment will be needed to realise this renewable infrastructure."
With regards to investment in cleaner energy, the researchers stressed the importance of creating a "stable regulatory framework and policies."