In the past the energy generated by windmills was immediately converted into mechanical labour: it was used to pump up water or to grind grain. This is not the case in the next generation of windmills, so-called ‘wind turbines’. The generated electricity goes to the electricity grid and is distributed to consumers.
This is also the case for the Belwind wind farm. The 55 turbines catch the wind at sea, and produce approximately 550 GigaWatt hours (= 550,000,000 Kilowatt hours) of green electricity a year. They supply electricity to about 160,000 households, and cut CO2 emissions by 160,000 tonnes every year.
And that is good news. Primarily for the environment, because wind turbines don't burn fossil fuels and therefore don't emit any CO2.
The government is also working on the climate. According to the Kyoto Protocol, Belgium must reduce the emission of greenhouse gases by 7.5 % by 2012. In the European climate plan, European member states undertake to emit 20% less CO2 by 2020, to be 20% more energy efficient and to generate 20% of the necessary energy from renewable sources, such as wind or water.
Belwind has given sustainable energy production a great boost. The renewable energy produced by the wind farm amounts to 4.7 % (9.4 % for phase I & II) of the federal government’s targets (with a Belgian annual consumption in 2020 of 90 TWu and a target of 13% renewable electricity generation).
Also, the new plant creates extra employment of about 1,200 man-years during the construction and 1,400 man-years during the operation of the plant.
And finally, wind turbines make Belgium less dependent on foreign energy suppliers and we guarantee our energy supplies in the future.