Construction of Princess Elisabeth energy island takes first steps

The first pieces of the Princess Elisabeth Island are being put together in the port of Vlissingen in the Netherlands. The island is a billion-dollar project in the North Sea that will form a link between offshore wind parks and the onshore electricity network, supplying Belgium with huge quantities of renewable energy.

Maritime contractors Jan De Nul and DEME are building the first caissons of the energy island on behalf of high-voltage grid operator Elia. The caissons – immense concrete structures – are the building blocks that form the contours of the island.

The blocks are 57m long, 30m wide and up to 30m high, with each one weighing 22,000 tonnes. The first one will be placed in the North Sea this summer, 45km offshore. Eight are scheduled to be installed this year, with the rest in 2025.

Once on site, the caissons will be filled with sand and the rest of the energy island will be raised. Construction should be finished by 2026 and the first wind turbines will be connected in 2028. The seabed where the Princess Elisabeth Island will be built has already been levelled.

World first

The island will be the first of its kind in the world. It will supply Belgium with the electricity generated by wind turbines that will be erected in the Princess Elisabeth zone – the second turbine zone off the Belgian coast – as well as turbines further out in the North Sea, close to Britain and Denmark.

Prime minister Alexander De Croo, Energy minister Tinne Van der Straeten and state secretary for Strategic Investments Thomas Dermine visited the Vlissingen construction site on Tuesday. 

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“This island is crucial to give us access to cheap energy, make us independent from countries that abuse our dependence on fossil energy and gain access to renewable energy,” De Croo said. “The potential of the North Sea is huge.” 

Four years ago, the budget was estimated at 2 billion euros for the island itself and the high-voltage infrastructure. Due to inflation of construction raw materials and high demand from other offshore projects for resources, the price will end up higher, Catherine Vandenborre, CEO ad interim of Elia Group, confirmed. 

“How much exactly more we cannot say yet. Perhaps by the end of this year,” she said. “But it remains a good thing for Belgian consumers. Doing nothing and continuing to import expensive electricity would be much more expensive."


Jan De Nul CEO Julie De Nul, Energy minister Tinne Van der Straeten, state secretary for Strategic Investments Thomas Dermine, prime minister Alexander De Croo and DEME CEO Luc Vandenbulcke visit the construction site of the Princess Elisabeth Island in Vlissingen, the Netherlands, 23 April 2024 © BELGA PHOTO DIRK WAEM

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