"Meshed" grid option for Europe's north seas analysed

Research fuels debate on future of offshore networks

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Creation of a "meshed" offshore electricity grid in northern Europe may offer some financial and "resilience" benefits to wind energy operators, compared to less-interconnected national offshore grids, according to a two-year research programme involving ten EU member states.

Construction of a highly-interconnected "meshed" offshore electricity grid within Europe’s northern seas by 2030 may cost slightly less than proceeding with the current "go it alone" tendency, which has seen each nation build its own cables linking offshore wind farms to national grids. This is a key finding of the North Seas Grid Study, produced by the North Seas Countries’ Offshore Grid Initiative.

Other benefits of a meshed approach would include greater flexibility for offshore wind operators, allowing them to choose from more than one route to shore. This could improve operators’ financial resilience in situations when one export cable is experiencing problems or has failed.

A meshed electricity grid would also encourage the installation of larger cables and "fewer landing points," notes the report.

But there are significant risks to building a more co-ordinated and inter-connected northern European offshore electricity grid, it acknowledges. The "added complexity" of such an approach would bring greater technology and operational risks as well as increased pressure for "regulatory clarification".

The study was discussed this week at a conference organised by Germany’s economy and technology ministry, at which the country’s junior economy minister, Philipp Rösler, argued that EU rules should be revised to encourage greater private sector investment in electricity network projects.

* Earlier this week, the UK and Irish governments announced they will facilitate the export of electricity generated by Irish onshore wind farms via a new interconnector to be built between Ireland and north Wales. UK offshore wind player, Mainstream Renewable Power, is keen to develop new onshore wind inIreland for such export.


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