The VICE Channels

    Belgium Is Building the World’s Biggest Battery on an Artificial Horseshoe-Shaped Island

    Written by

    Brian Merchant

    Senior Editor

    Wind and solar power are the future, clearly. And we’re going to need a lot more of both if we’re going to edge out coal, oil, and gas and get human civilization running on emissions-free electricity in time to avert catastrophic climate change. Belgium obviously knows this, seeing as how it has just unveiled some seriously ambitious new plans to help make clean energy more reliable than ever.

    And sure, those plans involve building a giant, artificial horseshoe-shaped island that’s also a battery.

    See, there’s one nagging problem with most truly clean energy sources—intermittency. Solar panels only soak up the sun during the day, turbines only turn when it’s windy. Though this problem has been over-exaggerated, and can be mitigated with smart grid tech, it’s nonetheless a thorn in clean energy’s side. Because it’s quite difficult to store electricity generated by wind and solar plants, so you often end up with a surfeit of power during the day, and not enough to go around by night.

    That’s where the Belgians come in.

    RT reports that:

    The island is planned to be built over the course of five years about three to four kilometers off the coast ... It will be about three kilometers in diameter, and will have a giant water reservoir occupying most of its territory.

    Energy will be stored by pumping seawater out of the reservoir. It is then recovered when needed by guiding the water back in through a hydropower plant at the heel of the 'horseshoe.'

    Belgium's battery island will be more effective than current power-storing methods, like the French favorite of using excess energy to push water uphill, and releasing it when they need extra juice.

    Right now, Belgium boasts a capacity of about 1,000 megawatts, but that number is set to quadruple by 2020. The battery island will thus help the small nation manage its clean power supply better than almost anyone else—much of it will be able to run on clean power around the clock. As such, It's an island-sized step forward in the development of clean energy systems.