The artificial Princess Elisabeth Island will be an energy hub 45 km off the Belgian coast connecting new wind farms and additional interconnectors (with the UK and Denmark) to Belgium's onshore power grid. To design the island with an eye to sustainability and respect for the marine environment, Elia worked with a range of experts to shape this Nature Inclusive Design (NID).
The NID aims not only to minimise the disruptive effects on the marine environment, but also to add ecological and environmental value to the project. The NID partnership also wants to enhance scientific knowledge in this area. The results can already serve as a basis for future scientific research or as inspiration when realising other projects.
Seven measures to ecologically enhance the Princess Elisabeth Island
For the Nature Inclusive Design, Elia brought together nature conservation and marine environment experts from public and private institutions, universities, consultancies and non-governmental organisations. The design agency ORG facilitated the process.
During the cooperation process, several NID elements were examined in terms of their contribution to reproduction, foraging and shelter, both above and below the waterline. After analysing the technical feasibility and the expected positive effects, the following measures were ultimately selected to ecologically enhance the Princess Elisabeth Island:
- Ledges to the storm wall, allowing cliff-nesting birds such as the black-legged kittiwake to breed, rest and recuperate;
- Relief panels where smaller marine organisms will be able to shelter and forage;
- Oyster baskets to promote the growth of oyster reefs;
- Chaotic scour protection with diverse habitats where different animal species can forage, shelter, and/or rest;
- Oyster tables to provide an extra boost for the creation of oyster reefs;
- Large boulders to create additional complexity to make the environment around the island all the more attractive to marine organisms;
- Scientific monitoring programme to follow up on the results of this project and make adjustments if necessary.
Ministerial approval and recognition
On Monday 13 November, Elia and a group of experts presented the seven concrete measures in Ostend. Federal Minister for Energy Tinne Van der Straeten was present and expressed her confidence in Belgium’s innovative approach showing that renewable energy and biodiversity go hand in hand.
"DEME and Jan De Nul have been developing methods to make a positive contribution to biodiversity through Flemish and European innovation projects for over a decade. The NID measures selected for the energy island build on this. They represent a huge leap forward due to their integration into the island design and their scale, which will make a significant contribution. This will serve as a new benchmark for nature inclusive design."
Project Manager - TM Edison