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What are the new prospects with regard to the production of energy?

Apart from approaches that belong to the realm of science fiction, four main trends can be seen at the moment:

  • Even though they have lessened, new oil and gas fields continue to be discovered. These two sources of energy will therefore remain available for several decades.
  • Coal, which is now used in power stations in a modern, less polluting manner, could see a revival of interest. It is estimated that the stocks still available can be exploited for a further 200 years.
  • Sources of renewable energy (solar, wind, hydraulic, biomass, biofuels, biogas, geothermal energy, etc.) are becoming increasingly efficient and are used more and more. In 2020, they could cover between 13 and 20 % of our energy needs. At the moment they barely account for 4.7 % in Belgium.
  • Nuclear fusion remains a far-off but plausible approach.

Three promising source of energy:
the sea, the desert and the improved performance of current systems

The technologies aimed at improving efficiency (CHP, for instance) and at reducing needs (insulation, for example, or using public transport) are indirectly a resource that can be used to prolong the energy reserves on our planet.

There are countless initiatives relating to the exploitation of renewable energy sources. Here, by way of example, are five ambitious and spectacular projects that concern Belgium:

  • A European industrial group is collecting funds to cover a small area of the Sahara with thermal solar panels with a concentrating mirror. This type of panel produces steam which can be used to supply power stations. Exploiting a small portion of the desert could be enough to cover the electricity needs of the whole of Europe. Construction work on the first installation is to begin in Morocco in 2012. Find out more on Desertec and in a video on Youtube: Solar Millennium Group.
  • Off the coast of Belgium, on Thornthon Bank, the C-POWER maritime wind farm has been operating six windmills since 2009. In 2012, 24 turbines are to be added, with a further 24 planned for 2013. The total capacity is 325 MW. However, huge wind farms have yet to be exploited. The Rentel and Seastar concessions, held by Belgian partners, are to be established respectively 31 and 38 kilometres from the Belgian coast, with production capacities of 288 MW and 246 MW. Together, these three farms will generate almost as much as a nuclear reactor.
  • Another maritime wind park, Belwind, which is a mainly Belgian initiative, has erected 55 windmills in 15 months on “Bligh Bank”. This is the country’s largest energy project and has been achieved in record time.
  • In December 2010, ten states signed a cooperation agreement to continue to develop wind farms in the North Sea, the English Channel, the Celtic Sea and the Irish Sea covering a surface area of around 760,000 km2. Some forecasts suggest that by 2050 almost 47 % of the electricity used in Europe will be generated at sea.
  • A Belgian engineer, Laurent Minguet, is currently studying a project that would involve covering the country with heat networks which would be used to heat public and private buildings. This heat would come from a large number (600) of small, local CHP power stations, that is facilities that produce heat and electricity at the same time with excellent efficiency levels. These CHP units would be supplied using a renewable energy form (link in French): wood pellets, produced in an African country where wood grows very quickly. This trade would benefit the emerging economy of this developing country and make Belgium more autonomous with regard to energy.

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