Offshore construction work on Princess Elisabeth Island, the world’s first energy island, is expected to start soon in the Belgian sector of the North Sea, as cardinal buoys have been deployed to demarcate an exclusion zone within which only vessels working on the energy island will be allowed, according to a Notice to Mariners issued on 26 March.

The commencement of work is on schedule as Jan De Nul and DEME, the companies that won the tender to build the energy island in March last year, said then that construction would start in early 2024. In October 2023, after receiving a key permit for the project, the Belgian transmission system operator and project developer Elia said the work was scheduled to begin in March 2024.

Construction of the island

Construction of what will be the world’s first artificial energy island is expected to be completed in August 2026.

The island will be built 45 km off the Belgian coast, within the Princess Elisabeth offshore wind farm zone, and cover approximately five hectares above water. The area that will house the electrical infrastructure will be built across approximately six hectares.

The first segments to be built will be concrete caissons filled with sand, to form the contours of the island. The work on this part of Princess Elisabeth Island is expected to be taking place throughout this and next year.

In June 2023, an environmental permit was granted for the construction of the caissons at Verbrugge Zeeland Terminals at Bijleveldhaven, a location in the North Sea Port where the 23 concrete caissons will be built, launched, stored and, in the summers of 2024 and 2025, towed to the offshore location and immersed.

Following the placing of caisson foundations, the base of the island will be raised and prepared for the construction of the electrical infrastructure. It will feature a small harbour and a helicopter platform to allow maintenance crews to visit the site. 

Princess Elisabeth Island will be the first such site in the world to contain both direct current (HVDC) and alternating current (HVAC) hardware. The high-voltage infrastructure on the island will bundle together the export cables from the wind farms in the 3.5 GW Princess Elisabeth Zone while also serving as a hub for future interconnectors with the United Kingdom (Nautilus) and Denmark (TritonLink).

Some 300 km of HVAC and 60 km of HVDC cables will be installed around the island to connect all future offshore facilities to the Belgian high-voltage grid.

The construction and operation of offshore wind farms in the zone will be awarded through separate tenders.

Image: Visualisation of Princess Elisabeth Energy Island (Image source: Elia)