BRUSSELS - Belgian holding company Ackermans & van Haaren and energy company Electrabel will join forces to create a new renewable energy company, the two companies said on Wednesday.

Electrabel, the Belgian arm of French utility GDF Suez, will have a 73 percent stake in the joint venture, called Max Green NV, and Ackermans the remaining 27 percent.

The venture's first project will be the conversion of the Rodenhuize 4 unit near the northern city of Ghent, from a coal-fired to a biomass power station with a capacity of 180 megawatts.

The project, requiring an investment of 125 million euros ($185.5 million), will start in 2010, with coal being replaced by wood pellets as an energy source. It will produce enough power for 320,000 households, the companies said.

Max Green will examine other renewable energy projects in the future.

The Belgian government has asked GDF Suez, which owns Electrabel, to invest 500 million euros in renewable energy in Belgium from 2010 in return for an extended life for three Belgian nuclear reactors.

For Ackermans, the venture will form a part of its newly created energy segment, one of five key sectors on which the holding focuses.

(Reporting by Antonia van de Velde and Philip Blenkinsop; Editing by David Holmes and Rupert Winchester)

($1=.6740 Euro)