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Belgium Plans Artificial Island To Store Wind Power

samzenpus posted about a year and a half ago | from the island-of-lost-watts dept.

Earth 242

bmcage writes "Belgium wants to build an artificial energy storage island within 5 years. The island will store excess energy produced at night from the offshore wind farms already present in the North-Sea. From the article: 'Belgium is planning to build a doughnut-shaped island in the North Sea that will store wind energy by pumping water out of a hollow in the middle, as it looks for ways to lessen its reliance on nuclear power. One of the biggest problems with electricity is that it is difficult to store and the issue is exaggerated in the case of renewable energy from wind or sun because it is intermittent depending on the weather. "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," said a spokeswoman for Belgium's North Sea minister Johan Vande Lanotte.'"

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242 comments

MMMM, Doughnut (2)

Noctis-Kaban (2758815) | about a year and a half ago | (#42624213)

It’s a good idea. I do wonder how the harsh north sea tides will affect it though. And as power storage goes, it's the safest way to store it... also the most tasty.

Re:MMMM, Doughnut (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42624261)

I hope it has purple in the middle

Re:MMMM, Doughnut (1)

smitty_one_each (243267) | about a year and a half ago | (#42624745)

I was expecting some Kafka-esque island for lawyers, academics, and politicians.

Belgians drilling a hole in the ocean?? (3, Informative)

dr.Flake (601029) | about a year and a half ago | (#42624247)

First, i'm Dutch, the northern neighbor of the Belgians, and we like to make jokes of each other.

But why make an island first? One could also transport the energy on shore and do the same trick with an old abandoned mining network for instance. Sounds like the upfront costs are going to be huge.
Also, the North Sea is the most busy shipping route on the planet. Do we really need an extra island in it?

Re:Belgians drilling a hole in the ocean?? (0)

Barryke (772876) | about a year and a half ago | (#42624265)

First, i'm Dutch, the northern neighbor of the Flemish, and we like to make jokes of each other. We also make jokes together at Whales.

Fixed that for you.

Speaking of whales, can't Belgium build that island there?

Re:Belgians drilling a hole in the ocean?? (0)

Barryke (772876) | about a year and a half ago | (#42624271)

It has recently come to my attention that they are called walloons not whales. (not that it sounds any better lol)

Re:Belgians drilling a hole in the ocean?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42624667)

Personally, I assumed it was meant to be a reference to "Wales" and the Welsh, though I couldn't figure out why your countrie(s) would be so obsessed with them.

BTW, are you sure that your "correction" wasn't just wish-fulfilment based on your personal identification with the Flemish community? (Also, since we're talking about names that don't sound good, "Flemish" sounds a bit like "Phlegm-ish [wikipedia.org] " ;-) )

Re:Belgians drilling a hole in the ocean?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42624387)

Re:Belgians drilling a hole in the ocean?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42624657)

Re:Belgians drilling a hole in the ocean?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42624681)

or perhaps http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walloonia

Re:Belgians drilling a hole in the ocean?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42624691)

First, i'm Dutch, the northern neighbor of Antwerp, and we like to make jokes of each other. We also make jokes together at Whales.

FTFY. Why stop at splitting flanders from wallonia?

Re:Belgians drilling a hole in the ocean?? (4, Interesting)

Tx (96709) | about a year and a half ago | (#42624295)

While your questions have some merit, I find it strange that with announcements like this, people always seem to assume that no thought or planning has gone into it whatsoever. Without any specific knowledge on the subject, I find it pretty likely that the answers to your questions are

a) No suitable onshore site exists. Abandoned mines have a risk of contamination if there is a leak, and would be too expensive to make safe.
b) Cost-benefit analysis has been done and favoured the island over other options. Storing large amounts of electricity is a very expensive business.
c) Island to be built in coastal waters outside any shipping lanes.

Of course, I could be wrong...

Re:Belgians drilling a hole in the ocean?? (2)

Alarash (746254) | about a year and a half ago | (#42624349)

Sometimes "cost analysis" and "government" don't go well together. Not to mention the possibility of lobbies pushing for the more expensive solution.

Re:Belgians drilling a hole in the ocean?? (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42624385)

As a US DoD acquisitions type ... we do "cost analysis" ... The problem is that we're using cost estimates made by analogy, handcuffed by regulations and instructions that add an order of magnitude to cost and complexity of all projects, working with contractors who are so bad at business that they can only get government contracts.

Re:Belgians drilling a hole in the ocean?? (5, Funny)

myowntrueself (607117) | about a year and a half ago | (#42624507)

As a US DoD acquisitions type ... we do "cost analysis" ... The problem is that we're using cost estimates made by analogy, handcuffed by regulations and instructions that add an order of magnitude to cost and complexity of all projects, working with contractors who are so bad at business that they can only get government contracts.

Does anyone ever do an analysis of the costs of doing a cost analysis?

Re:Belgians drilling a hole in the ocean?? (2, Interesting)

ai4px (1244212) | about a year and a half ago | (#42624625)

Does anyone ever do an analysis of the costs of doing a cost analysis?

Amen brother! They've been doing an environmental impact study for years to consider deepening the Charleston SC harbor channel by something like 2 meters. They've spent MILLIONS on the study and more time than it would have taken to have simply deepened the channel.

Re:Belgians drilling a hole in the ocean?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42624827)

Yes, there's no study that congess won't fund. We have to fill out time tracking shit for filling out time tracking shit every time there's an "efficiency study"

Re:Belgians drilling a hole in the ocean?? (5, Interesting)

ledow (319597) | about a year and a half ago | (#42624393)

d) The guy who owns the company that would be contracted to do it is the golf-buddy of the guy who makes the decision.

Unfortunately, that particular link I have witnessed on scales from the education secretary down to local headteachers in everything from primary schools to academies (privatised schools that break the rules that state schools aren't allowed to break, and get private "sponsorship" which allows them to sign exclusive, long-term contracts with manufacturers owned by the guy from the same army regiment as the "superhead" appointed by a parliamentary Lord to run the academy).

The councillor in charge of waste management in my local London borough "just happens" to own the independent waste management company that they contract out all their services to. It's declared on something called the "Register of Interests" but I can't help feeling that that's a conflict of interest whether you state it or not.

It's really that common in politics and the only question is whether you can prove it or not. I've worked in places where it was literally so bad, we used to Google the directors of the company of any van that pulled into the car park. Glaziers, carpet-fitters, electricians, IT cabling guys, you name it, we managed to find direct links back to those people authorised the contracts (and, in some cases, they directly profited from the companies that were employed to do those contracts - but it was all "okay" because they declared their interests in some obscure paperwork that was almost impossible to find).

Re:Belgians drilling a hole in the ocean?? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42624689)

d) The guy who owns the company that would be contracted to do it is the golf-buddy of the guy who makes the decision.

It's interesting to note that when Steve Stevaert was still in office, solar power was really promoted and heavy subsidized. (He had his hands deep in some solar-panel companies). Now that Johan Vande Lanotte took over from Stevaert, (same political party: spa), solar-power is getting beat up heavy with serious cuts in funding etc. however his hands being very deep in wind-power pockets, much is happening to facilitate and promote wind power.

That party is filled with corrupt and crooked officials, their sister party in Wallonië has similar problems with several scandals. e.g. using government visa cards for private uses etc...
No, I don't know why people still vote for them.

Re:Belgians drilling a hole in the ocean?? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42624705)

That party is filled with corrupt and crooked officials, their sister party in Wallonië has similar problems with several scandals. e.g. using government visa cards for private uses etc...
No, I don't know why people still vote for them.

because ALL the other parties have the same problem ?

Re:Belgians drilling a hole in the ocean?? (1)

Ol Biscuitbarrel (1859702) | about a year and a half ago | (#42624833)

Over the years I've assured people who complain about "Big Oil" that even in a fully renewable powered world we'd still complain about "Big Wind" etc; nice to have this rather obvious point confirmed again, eg Solyndra.

Re:Belgians drilling a hole in the ocean?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42624943)

Too bad there's lies a plenty about it regardless, eg, Solyndra.

Some people seem to think they didn't even build the factory, that it couldn't make a product, and that they didn't sell anything.

Re:Belgians drilling a hole in the ocean?? (2)

ledow (319597) | about a year and a half ago | (#42624931)

Then don't vote.

Most sensible countries have specific laws about what happens when not enough people vote - i.e. the vote is invalid and special action have to be taken.

Voting for the lesser of two evils is still voting for a known evil.

d) (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42624483)

Dr. Evil is using this as a cover to build a "secret" lair.

He is Belgian, after all!

Re:Belgians drilling a hole in the ocean?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42624489)

You are completely right. Of course this doesn't come falling out of the sky, and likely a large number of bright people have spend quite some time crunching numbers on this.

however, in The Netherlands we also had a megalomaniac idea of building a mountain a mile high that also received quite some attention. (Link).
Or how about an entire airport? (Link)
also with all the numbers and estimates in order.
So no shortage of plans.

Remains, why at sea, in a vulnerable nature, with extreme costs and likely in the way of others?
Building at sea is probably 3 times more expensive. twice the maintenance costs. (sucking my thumb right now)

You only avoid the "not in my backyard" people.

Leaking drinking water is not an issue
On land it already been done in Belgium, can't find the link right now, but they build a lake on a hill. Visited the site once, was apparently quite efficient.
The entire Belgium North Sea (quite small actually) is shipping lane (Link)

Re:Belgians drilling a hole in the ocean?? (3, Informative)

polar red (215081) | about a year and a half ago | (#42624813)

On land it already been done in Belgium, can't find the link right now

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_pumped-storage_hydroelectric_power_stations [wikipedia.org]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coo-Trois-Ponts_Hydroelectric_Power_Station [wikipedia.org]

Re:Belgians drilling a hole in the ocean?? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42624611)

While your questions have some merit, I find it strange that with announcements like this, people always seem to assume that no thought or planning has gone into it whatsoever. Without any specific knowledge on the subject...

Allow me to stop you there and say, you must be new here. It's a proven fact that /. is populated by the best of the best. Everyone who's anyone here are combination lawyers, sociologists, engineers, mathematicians, physicists, nuclear scientists, astronauts, psychologists, secret agents, trashmen, and consultants.

Oh, and some of us even have girlfriends.

Re:Belgians drilling a hole in the ocean?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42624315)

One could also transport the energy on shore and do the same trick with an old abandoned mining network for instance.

The problem is how they get the energy back:

Excess energy would be used to pump water out of the centre of the island, and then the water would be let back in through turbines when demand outpaces supply.

If you used a mining network the water in the mine will be lower than sea level, so you'd actually have to pump it back out which would defeat the point. Once they've pumped it out of the doughnut though the water level in the middle will be lower than outside in the rest of the sea, so it'll naturally flow back in when they open the turbines.

I'm not sure why they couldn't do something similar on shore though. I guess they didn't like the idea of building an enormous water tank on the coastline, maybe they thought a sand doughnut would be easier than a reinforced erosion-resistant concrete tub.

Re:Belgians drilling a hole in the ocean?? (3, Insightful)

rufty_tufty (888596) | about a year and a half ago | (#42624351)

Don't forget as well the costs to build this are basically pi*d + turbines, and the storage capacity would be pi*r^2; so economies of scale rapidly kick in - it makes great financial sense to build this HUGE!
And taking a large amount of farmland or living space out of commission when there is all that unused ocean there just seems plain daft in comparison. What "job" the ocean does it still can do with this, not the same as if you tried to build something analogous on land.

Re:Belgians drilling a hole in the ocean?? (2)

Gordonjcp (186804) | about a year and a half ago | (#42624403)

Why not pump the water out of the mines with the excess electricity, and use the water flowing back in to run the turbines?

Re:Belgians drilling a hole in the ocean?? (1)

Captain Hook (923766) | about a year and a half ago | (#42624501)

You'd need to make sure the mine was completely water tight or water would be draining in from the surrounding rock and not draining in via the turbine and so reduce the efficency of the system.

You would also still need a reservior of water nearby to to drain into the mine, it's basically the same problem of all hydro-storage setups, whether you store the water up high and let it drain out in mountainous areas or store the water at ground and let it drain into a mine. You need to find the right geology to do it.

lifting land instead (1)

drago (1334) | about a year and a half ago | (#42624839)

Some time ago I read an article where a German professor suggested to dig out a cylindrical hole of some 100 meters across and lift it with the excess energy. There was a nice mock up picture going along with it, showing a house and a cow being lifted ;-)

Re:Belgians drilling a hole in the ocean?? (4, Interesting)

JaredOfEuropa (526365) | about a year and a half ago | (#42624327)

This is similar to Plan Lievense [wikipedia.org] (translation [google.nl] ), a 30 year old idea. The original plan did call for storage on land, by pumping water into a reservoir. Only problem is that a breach of the reservoir had the potential of creating a massvice flood.

As for room on the North Sea, there are already plans for wind farms to be built there. Since ships have to steer well clear of these, you could build this reservoir in the middle of it.

Re:Belgians drilling a hole in the ocean?? (5, Informative)

hackertourist (2202674) | about a year and a half ago | (#42624359)

Actually Plan Lievense was to convert part of the IJsselmeer (a large lake) to a reservoir, so not on land.

A later version of the plan mitigated the flood risk by keeping the reservoir at a lower water level instead of a higher level than the surroundings, which meant using the IJsselmeer wasn't feasible as it was too shallow. So they looked at putting it in the North Sea instead. The Belgian plan is exactly this.

Re:Belgians drilling a hole in the ocean?? (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about a year and a half ago | (#42624805)

Actually Plan Lievense was to convert part of the IJsselmeer (a large lake) to a reservoir, so not on land.

Lakes are on land. HTH, HAND.

Re:Belgians drilling a hole in the ocean?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42625009)

And I suppose you think the sea just floats above an empty void?

Re:Belgians drilling a hole in the ocean?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42625061)

Lakes are also man-made (there are no man-made oceans).

Guess what the Ijsselmeer is. One guess: it's not natural.

Re:Belgians drilling a hole in the ocean?? (1)

polar red (215081) | about a year and a half ago | (#42624751)

there are already plans for wind farms to be built there

plans ?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Belwind [wikipedia.org]

Re:Belgians drilling a hole in the ocean?? (3, Interesting)

DeathToBill (601486) | about a year and a half ago | (#42624431)

The economics of this are quite complex. So long as the stored energy is insignificant relative to the market, it's quite attractive. Buying energy when there's an excess also means buying when it's cheap. Selling in a shortage means selling when the price is high. In other words, a classic market arbitrage situation.

But as storage becomes larger, of course it starts to feed back into market prices and smooths out the highs and lows of the market. Eventually it should settle to a point where the cost of storage equates to the average difference between buy and sell price, but what that cost might be I don't think anyone knows yet.

Energy demand is variable (4, Insightful)

mangu (126918) | about a year and a half ago | (#42624537)

The scheme is not as much about price arbitrage as about smoothing demand.

There's more demand for energy during the evenings than during the mornings, and price differences will never be able to eliminate that. No one will turn off their lights in the evening to turn them on during the morning, no matter what the prices are.

The effect of energy storage are to allow a steady supply, like wind, to be used when it's most needed. Storage would be even more important if solar energy is used, for obvious reasons.

Re:Belgians drilling a hole in the ocean?? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42624435)

Belgian here, and acknowledging the jokes part ;-)

The nearest mine I can think of is more than 100 km from the coast (let alone the wind farm). That doesn't seem like a good plan at first glance. And the island is near the wind farm. I suppose that is nowhere near the shipping routes, or we would already have a problem with ships trying to manoeuvre between the turbines.

Re:Belgians drilling a hole in the ocean?? (1)

Basje (26968) | about a year and a half ago | (#42624453)

The idea isn't new: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plan_Lievense [wikipedia.org] (Dutch only, I'm afraid)

The Belges lack the geology to implement this without an artificial island.

Re:Belgians drilling a hole in the ocean?? (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42624471)

First, i'm Dutch, the northern neighbor of the Belgians, and we like to make jokes of each other.

But why make an island first?

Or they could used the Netherlands, as far as I remember most of it is below sea-level anyway :)

Re:Belgians drilling a hole in the ocean?? (3, Interesting)

arnodf (1310501) | about a year and a half ago | (#42624513)

1. there are no mines near the coast. Who would mine sand since that's all there is?
2. transportation from the sea to the coast would be incredibly expensive because you need to build pipelines, several pumps (as compared to only a few to pump it from the sea into the doughnut). We have (this will sound chauvinistic but I'm allowing my self to do so in this case) the best dredging companies in the world (Jan de Nul and Deme).
3. It's 3km off the coast... that's nothing. The shipping lanes are way out into the see. The only thing that may cause perhaps some problems is the harbour of Zeebrugge. The distance between Calais and Dover is what? 60km?

Re:Belgians drilling a hole in the ocean?? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42624555)

Well,

to be honest, the Dutch were thinking about this already:
http://www.dnvkema.com/services/etd/es/large-scale-storage.aspx

But apparently, what is needed is a layer of clay beneath the seabed. The Dutch coast does not have this layer, the Flemish coast does (for those interested: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boomse_Klei - in Dutch)

To answer your question about why the island? Well there is already an offshore wind park. This would fit in nicely there.

Re:Belgians drilling a hole in the ocean?? (1)

polar red (215081) | about a year and a half ago | (#42624687)

But why make an island first? One could also transport the energy on shor.

space. There is no room on the shore (or anywhere else in belgium).

Re:Belgians drilling a hole in the ocean?? (3, Interesting)

mrvan (973822) | about a year and a half ago | (#42624693)

"We" made a similar island for storing contaminated sludge in a part of the IJsselmeer. This reservoir island is 1km across (so slightly smaller but same order of magnitude) and 45m deep.

Some links: google maps [goo.gl] , Dutch wiki [wikipedia.org] , google translated Dutch wiki [google.nl] .

According to this page [waddenzee.nl] , this island cost around 250 million to build. At 1 km across and 45m deep, it can hold around 35E6 sq meters of water=3.5E10 kgs of water. No idea whether it works that way, but the potential energy might be m*g*h=3.5E10 * 9.81 * 22 (avg.) ~ 7E12 joules, or the output of a 3500MW power plant for 7E12/3.5E9 2000 seconds or about half an hour, assuming 100% efficiency and no fuckups in my orders of magnitude.

I'm assuming it is easier to build this in the ocean than to dig it in a shallow lake (the lake around the reservoir is about 2.5m deep), because otherwise why not just dig it in the shallow lake? Since the north sea is about 50m deep [uni-kassel.de] offshore from the low countries, a reservoir of 3km accross wil hold 9 times as much energy, or around 5 hours of output from one plant. Whether that is enough or not I have no idea. I would suppose that the cost could be around 9*250 million = 2.5 billion euro, which is cheaper than building a new plant but nothing to sneeze at.

Sounds like a good plan (4, Insightful)

Sqr(twg) (2126054) | about a year and a half ago | (#42624253)

You can't have wind power on any serious scale without storage. Storage built off-shore - near the wind-farm - also lessens the load on the link to the mainland.

Only question is: Will the polulation accept the high price, or will they prefer to import cheaper nuclear energy from France?

Re:Sounds like a good plan (1)

nospam007 (722110) | about a year and a half ago | (#42624441)

"Only question is: Will the polulation accept the high price, or will they prefer to import cheaper nuclear energy from France?"

Cheaper? They give away this power for free if there's a surplus as Germany did during the holidays. It even paid some companies to take the energy. Because of how the subventions work, the power company has to pay the turbine owners for the power and are forced to accept and pay for it.

Re:Sounds like a good plan (2, Interesting)

FreeTherapy (2768701) | about a year and a half ago | (#42624455)

Better import from Germany! They export energy at the lowest price. Even after shutting down their nuclear plants, they still have too much energy. That's because they have lots of solar power and wind turbines. On land. Maybe offshore has higher efficiency once it's built, but construction costs are so incredibly high eventual electricity price is almost double of wind turbines on land, says Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cost_of_electricity_by_source [wikipedia.org] So Germany exports power for next to nothing. But wait, Germany is the only country Belgium doesn't import power from! How fucking stupid is that? Actually very smart, considering a corrupt government. Belgium lacks behind other European countries dramatically when it comes to renewable power. Government tells people renewable energy is expensive. Meanwhile they keep not importing German power and building expensive offshore wind turbines! As if they want renewable energy to be expensive.

conceptual drawing and local print (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42624283)

Translated short article [google.be] with conceptual drawing

Has anyone done an assessment... (0)

Viol8 (599362) | about a year and a half ago | (#42624301)

... of what extracting a lot of energy from the wind will do to local weather patterns? A the moment its inconsequential but if wind power really becomes a big time method of power generation for a lot of countries then this might become an issue especially during hot summer months when a breeze is needed to keep temperatures down by mixing the air layers.

Re:Has anyone done an assessment... (4, Informative)

ledow (319597) | about a year and a half ago | (#42624353)

Not a lot. Certainly no more than building cities and skyscrapers over hundreds of years.

The energy in the wind is ENORMOUS. Stupendous. On a scale we can't even begin to imagine. Huge masses of air going higher than mountains and pushing things over at huge velocities without even trying.

But our harnessing of it is pathetic. It's like putting a child's windmill into a wind test tunnel, but actually much, much worse. Sure, we get useful energy "for free" but we don't take 1% of 1% of 1% out of the power of the wind (if you want to see why, just work out how much volume a wind turbine takes up out of, say, the entire atmosphere above your country. It's literally lost in the measurement error. Multiply by even a million and it's still nothing, and beaten by the change in wind pattern generated by, say, a small avalanche on a high mountain).

The biggest problem is: what sort of impact does having to add all that infrastructure have on the "greenness" of the project? What energy are you using to produce it, and cope with its losses, and what water will you use and how will you filter it (if at all) to get efficient transfer and how will you maintain it (if it's offshore - that's yet-another thing that has to be maintained at great expense and someone has to use a diesel-powered boat to get to it and check on it every so often, etc.). It's all small stuff but it all eats away at the efficiency of the system and we're already at the point where the efficiency of the system has now been admitted to be INADEQUATE after decades of investment and now needs this new "energy store" to make it more efficient.

Re:Has anyone done an assessment... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42624777)

Actually the efficiency of wind power is much more than adequate. Check this out: http://physics.ucsd.edu/do-the-math/

Re:Has anyone done an assessment... (1)

Floyd-ATC (2619991) | about a year and a half ago | (#42624935)

I've been told that the power required to make enough aluminium for a windmill exceeds what that windmill can generate in its service life. Even if those things didn't kill wildlife and break down all the time they'd still be a pretty stupid idea. And now we want to use water pumps and turbines to use that overpriced electricity to try and empty a pool out in the north sea. Every time it rains you'd basically lose energy and most people who've worked in the north sea will tell you rain isn't really rare out there. Why not scrap the windmills altogether and /collect/ rainwater in that pool instead, then use conventional hydro power to generate electricity? Oh I know, because it doesn't generate nearly the same amount of meaningless jobs.

Re:Has anyone done an assessment... (1)

Rogerborg (306625) | about a year and a half ago | (#42624499)

Also: Goddamn trees, right, stealing all that wind energy and trying to cook us. The dwarves were right!

Re:Has anyone done an assessment... (0)

Viol8 (599362) | about a year and a half ago | (#42624991)

When you find some 100 metre high trees growing out of the sea get back to us.

Insensitive Clods (3, Funny)

some old guy (674482) | about a year and a half ago | (#42624307)

Weather and sunlight are not, and cannot be, intermittent. They can be variable and cyclical, but not intermittent. There is always weather, and the sun does not shut down at sunset.

The engineer in me wonders what happens when an extended period of calm, cloudy weather fails to yield enough surplus energy to pump up their doughnut.

Perhaps they should consult the experts at Krispy Kreme.

Or redesign it as a Belgian waffle?

Now I'm sorry I missed breakfast.

Re:Insensitive Clods (1)

jamesh (87723) | about a year and a half ago | (#42624559)

There is always weather

You're right. There was some weather today, not much yesterday, and I think not much tomorrow, but i've never seen a weather forecast of "none". There are times when there is very little weather though, and times when there is a lot.

Re:Insensitive Clods (1)

Sepodati (746220) | about a year and a half ago | (#42624853)

The sunlight reaching the solar panels is intermittent based on the types of weather. The TYPES of weather we receive are intermittent, also.

doughnut!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42624317)

Surely a waffle shape would be better?

Cost? Price? (1)

jamesl (106902) | about a year and a half ago | (#42624321)

Once again we have a green/renewable energy plan that comes without a price tag. This stuff isn't free -- in fact it's pretty expensive. If people knew how expensive they'd, be more cautious about building.

Re:Cost? Price? (3, Insightful)

foniksonik (573572) | about a year and a half ago | (#42624961)

Fossil fuel infrastructure costs just as much to build as does nuclear. This will just take longer to return the investment in terms of power that is paid for. Without value applied to pollution, cost of waste products, etc we can't measure the savings from using a non-polluting system (exclusive of the pollution costs to build it). If we did the return on investment could be seen as much higher than investment in other energy generation systems.

Clean political story but ? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42624333)

After being named "the emperor of Ostend" Vande Lanotte needs to clean up his public image.
Accusations of various conflicts of interest exist on the guy.
A broader approval of this project is needed.
He better makes sure this is a viable project and not a "prestige project" like some of the Dubai venture of the same companies proposing this.
A similar approached is used with fresh water in Germany, unfortunately salt water is a lot more aggressive.
Furtunately Belpex gives some verifyable data:
http://belpex.be/index.php?id=5
How long will the big spread in this data be profitable ?
Are there some other ways of arbitraging this spread to a lower value ? Yes there are (smartgrid etc....),
the same politicians and electricity monopolies are standing in the way of using these.

Picture, some more info (4, Informative)

De Lemming (227104) | about a year and a half ago | (#42624347)

Here is an article in Dutch [deredactie.be] which includes a rendering of the island.

The capacity would be 300 MW, equivalent to a standard gas power station. It could provide electricity for 3 hours a day. This would be sufficient to intercept peak usage during morning and evening hours (1.5 hours each).

One of the contractors would be the Belgian dredging company which also worked on the Palm Islands [wikipedia.org] in the United Arab Emirates. Building of the island would take around 2 years. Price: around 800 million euros.

Re:Picture, some more info (3, Insightful)

FreeTherapy (2768701) | about a year and a half ago | (#42624411)

In the daytime, there is a lack of energy in Belgium and energy needs to be imported from neighbor countries. Most of the energy in Belgium is used for (fully automated) industrial processes. Wouldn't it be more cost effective to just make certain industries only run at night, when there is too much energy? This could be made an attractive option if nighttime energy prices are low enough. Also, 800 million euros is fucking insane! I estimate (too lazy to check facts and cite sources) investing that money in extra wind turbines instead of energy storage would produce an extra 1 gigawatt during the daytime. There would still be massive excess of energy at night, but hey, the government could use that to generate good ol' bitcoins! Government budget was never solved more quickly!

Re:Picture, some more info (3, Insightful)

nojayuk (567177) | about a year and a half ago | (#42624629)

Quite a few energy-hungry industries already use cheap night-time baseload electricity -- iron and steel foundries for example often do melts during the night and pour and cast during the day.

As for the projected cost of 800 million Eu, that's about the regular price for pumped storage. Dinorwig and Cruachan in the UK cost about the same, roughly $200 million per GWhr of storage in today's money. Storage generally is expensive; pumped storage is cheap compared to batteries (about $1.5 billion per GWhr), capacitor banks, flywheels etc. It would be more productive to build a nuclear baseload generator station (500,000 GWhr of generation @1.5GW over a 60-year lifespan for about $20 billion construction and lifetime operating costs) but that's not too likely due to nuclear being scary.

Re:Picture, some more info (3, Insightful)

foniksonik (573572) | about a year and a half ago | (#42625023)

Hmmm 800M euro and a working system in 2 years with no failure mode vs some 10's of Billions and a 5+ year wait with a disaster level failure mode. Both will last at least 25 years. One has very low maintenance costs while the other has extremely regulated, hence expensive maintenance costs.

Let me tally up a few figures on a napkin back here... Okay, you're right Nuclear, wait miscarried the 1. Nope, gravity wins!!!! Yes gravity is the more efficient force to harness in this scenario.

Re:Picture, some more info (2)

sturle (1165695) | about a year and a half ago | (#42624707)

1 GW extra wind power capacity will only work when the wind blows. When you are in the middle of a low pressure, you don't have any wind, but you just had a lot of it, and you are going to get a lot of it in a few hours. That's why you need storage with wind power. Just adding extra wind power will not solve the problem.

When it's windy in countries with a lot of wind power, the price of power will go below 0. This happened several times in Denmark last year. (Check http://nordpoolspot.com/ [nordpoolspot.com] for real time prices and statistics.) In Denmark, to choose a country with much wind power and good power transmission capacity to neighbour countries with storage (Norway and Sweden), the price of power typically varies 20 EUR/MWh during the day. Sometimes as much as 50 EUR/MWh. Probably more in Belgium due to low exchange capacity to countries with storage. When the wind turbines produce the most, the price will be lowest. This island will store the cheap electricity and release it when it is expensive. This island will almost certainly be more profitable than 1 GWh extra wind power.

The island will also be able to harvest tidal energy. As the tides change, so will the difference in water level on the inside and outside of the island.

Btw: Bitcoin production is shifting over to ASICs, which don't use that much electricity.

Re:Picture, some more info (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42624711)

One of the issues we had in May last year:
High winds and lots of sun made solar panels and wind turbines generate far above average power. The result was that their was way to much energy being pumped into the grid and their is nothing currently available to store the excess or to quickly reduce production.
The problem was so bad that if France wasn't willing (they got paid handsomely for it) to dispense of that excess energy, the grid itself would've been severely damaged.
Hopefully this island would be able to store excess production and release it when needed. This type of technology is a necessity if you want to seriously increase energy production from alternative sources.

Re:Picture, some more info (1)

GauteL (29207) | about a year and a half ago | (#42624713)

As someone else have pointed out, this already happens where feasible. But what happens if you have a factory which operates 24/7 with almost everyone being shift workers?

If it was to operate 8 hours per day only, it would need three times the production capacity in order to complete in 8 hours what it normally does in 24. This would mean a massive, costly and inefficient expansion in terms of area and equipment. Equipment which would just sit idle for 16 hours a day.

Also, your shift workers who now may do one night shift in three, would have to always work during the night.

Tidal (3, Interesting)

lobiusmoop (305328) | about a year and a half ago | (#42624365)

If they're going to this much effort to store/release coastal water, wouldn't it be easier to just rely on the daily tides instead? No wind turbines required.

Re:Tidal (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42624405)

Because that does not store any energy.

Re:Tidal (2)

hackertourist (2202674) | about a year and a half ago | (#42624519)

The point of this scheme is not the generation of electricity, but to enable better matching between demand and supply (peak shaving). A pumped storage station can store excess generated power and then supply a variable amount of power on short notice, something that's difficult to do with other power generation options.

AKA pumped storage (4, Interesting)

david.given (6740) | about a year and a half ago | (#42624369)

This is a very old idea, although most countries don't need to build artificial islands to do it. For example, the Ben Cruachan [wikipedia.org] pumped storage plant in Scotland uses two lochs at different levels. Energy is stored by pumping water from the low one to the high one.

Pumped storage power stations are typically used for short-term handling of power spikes; if you get sudden load on the electricity network, you can spin up a pumped storage plant in minutes --- sometimes seconds if you know that a spike is due and can prepare --- while traditional oil, coal and nuclear can take hours. So the pumped storage plant handles the load while the big power stations rev up.

Drawbacks involve not being very efficient ---Wikipedia says 70-80% [wikipedia.org] --- and they don't store that much energy. Ben Cruachan, for example, can only generate 440MW for 22 hours before running dry. They're also environmentally rather poor (although not nearly as bad as the alternatives, which are usually fast-start gas turbines, of course).

Using an artificial island is an interesting idea. If you're using off-shore wind farms then the power generation is local and you save on infrastructure and transmission costs; you avoid destroying valuable mountainside (although at the expense of destroying valuable sea bottom); it's close to the coastal cities which would be using the power... does anyone have a link to more technical information? Like how big it is? The linked article is almost entirely content-free.

Re:AKA pumped storage (1)

findoutmoretoday (1475299) | about a year and a half ago | (#42624465)

In Belgium there is the +/- 1200 MW Coo-Trois-Ponts Hydroelectric Power Station in service since the sixties. I think this project is more an excuse to build an island as half the energy is to be found in tidal optimization.

Re:AKA pumped storage (1)

LourensV (856614) | about a year and a half ago | (#42624733)

Using an artificial island is an interesting idea. If you're using off-shore wind farms then the power generation is local and you save on infrastructure and transmission costs; you avoid destroying valuable mountainside (although at the expense of destroying valuable sea bottom).

Nothing to destroy there, the North Sea is pretty much an industrial wasteland. Fish populations were decimated long ago, all that's left is oil drilling rigs, shipping lanes, pipelines and wind farms. So an artificial island more or less is not going to be a problem in that respect, and the Low Countries don't have a lot of mountainside, valuable or not. Actually, it's not inconceivable that birds might breed on the island, away from most human influence. The wind turbines may be a problem for them though, not sure.

Re:AKA pumped storage (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about a year and a half ago | (#42624821)

80% is pretty good! And doing it all offshore could cut down on the environmental impact, provided they've got enough openings for the water such that they're not sucking in the sea life.

Sure, but when... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42624443)

Don't hold your breath on this one. Given the speed at which the Belgian administration works, as well as the damage that pressure groups can do in this country, we'll have cheap nuclear fusion long before all licences and permits for this island have been granted.

Have they considered rain ? (1)

ctrl-alt-canc (977108) | about a year and a half ago | (#42624495)

While they are busy pumping water out at night, North Sea rains could pour water in their waterhole 24 hours a day. It would be wiser to pump water up into the artificial lake, so that rain will just add energy to the system. But for sure this has been designed by a belgian engineer...

Re:Have they considered rain ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42624533)

While they are busy pumping water out at night, North Sea rains could pour water in their waterhole 24 hours a day. It would be wiser to pump water up into the artificial lake, so that rain will just add energy to the system. But for sure this has been designed by a belgian engineer...

Fairly sure that annual rainfall would be a minimal consideration if they are pumping even just a few metres of water each day... and an island that had two lakes at different elevations would be much more expensive to make with a lower capacity than a single laked island the same size.

Re:Have they considered rain ? (1)

hackertourist (2202674) | about a year and a half ago | (#42624551)

If you have the storage lake at a higher level than the surrounding sea, you have to build a dike to that higher level. When the storage lake sits at a lower level, you only have to account for sea level + wave height.

Also, precipitation only accounts for a few cm per day.

Re:Have they considered rain ? (1)

codeButcher (223668) | about a year and a half ago | (#42624779)

While they are busy pumping water out at night, North Sea rains could pour water in their waterhole 24 hours a day. It would be wiser to pump water up into the artificial lake, so that rain will just add energy to the system. But for sure this has been designed by a belgian engineer...

You do realise, do you, that since the rest of the surrounding North Sea isn't roofed over, rainfall will raise the water level both inside and outside by the same amount, so the difference in levels will stay exactly the same?

Having a "hole in the sea" has the added benefit that the melting polar caps (global warming) will raise the sea level, increasing the difference in levels, thus actually adding energy to the system.

Re:Have they considered rain ? (1)

codeButcher (223668) | about a year and a half ago | (#42624859)

If you do think the above is quite serious, you might want to look at http://what-if.xkcd.com/23/ [xkcd.com] (and search for the word "downspouts"). Interesting, or at least entertaining.

Belgium Donuts (1)

Required Snark (1702878) | about a year and a half ago | (#42624541)

Do they come with different dipping sauces?

dipping sauce for donuts?! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42624577)

mayonnaise?

replacing nuclear with wind (1)

ssam (2723487) | about a year and a half ago | (#42624591)

if you switch from nuclear to wind you give no benefit to the environment. while there is still fossil fuel power on the grid its irresponsible to reduce nuclear capacity.

Dont forget that electricity currently accounts for only about 20-30% of energy use. to go carbon neutral we need to electrify home heating/cooking and transport. even if we make everything more efficient as we do this, we still need to double electricity generating capacity.

Sounds like something from Gilligan's Island (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42624645)

The Professor will use the stored energy to power the radio he fashioned out of a coconut, so the seven can entertain themselves while they wait to be rescued.

Slashdot and its camel-case titles (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42624731)

For me as a non-native english speaker, it's sometimes hard to read Slashdot titles. After reading this headline I somehow thought at Iceland and couldn't figure out what meaning is behind this title. This is so annoying!!!!!1

Reduce price! (1)

fireballrus (1000626) | about a year and a half ago | (#42624739)

Why not just reduce price and thus not "loose" energy? Why whenever I come to Europe, all I hear is "energy saving" by all means, when it turns out they just loose the energy instead of selling it cheaper? There could be a special, cheap night tariff for electricity, and it would solve the problem way better than spending huge amount of money on building an artificial island.

Re:Reduce price! (1)

f()rK()_Bomb (612162) | about a year and a half ago | (#42625053)

That is exactly what currently happens. This is about the fact that they generate more energy than they need sometimes from wind, and could store it for when they do need it for spikes.

The island is to be shaped like a doughnut... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42624781)

...unfortunately, it all goes horribly wrong when they don't specify the type of doughnut, and the contractors model it after a jam-filled one. :-)

Belgian land? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42624851)

After the holocaust the Belgians unleashed on the Congo? I wouldn't trust them with a coral reef.

Pumped Hydro Storage Well Proven (4, Insightful)

anorlunda (311253) | about a year and a half ago | (#42624877)

Pumped storage hydro is a superb way to store and retrieve electric energy. Indeed it is the only proven way to do it on a massive scale.

Power engineers love pumped storage facilities because of a long list of desirable properties they have. From the power grid point of view, they blend well with everything ever done in the past or contemplated in the future.

USA slashdotters may be interested to hear that the Blenheim-Gilboa pumped storage facility has been aiding the reliability and affordability of electric power in New York State and New York City for decades.

The innovation in the Belgian case is to do it using a hole in the water instead of a lake on a mountain top. I'm sure that it will present it's own engineering challenges, but nothing insurmountable comes to mind. We should all wish them good luck.

Compressed air (1)

fredan (54788) | about a year and a half ago | (#42624905)

One of the biggest problems with electricity is that it is difficult to store

no shit, sherlock.

Perhaps you shouldn't concentrate so much on electricity directly.

Rebuild your wind farm to produce compressed air instead of electricity.

is electricity the only source of revenue ? (1)

blauwbaard (1577401) | about a year and a half ago | (#42624923)

Couple of years ago the nearby town of Knokke was trying to build a yacht-harbour and build a similar construction along the Zeebrugge harbour. Their intention was to finance the needed dike by selling premium apartments (with a premium sea-view). They could never convince the politicians, public and the investors together. Maybe the socialist Vande Lanotte should look at raising some "different" money for raising money for his "green" idea ?
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