UK and Dutch grid operators explore linking offshore wind farms

National Grid Ventures and Tennet aim to commission an interconnector project by 2029

Both the UK and the Netherlands have set ambitious targets for offshore wind expansion (pic credit: Eneco)
Both the UK and the Netherlands have set ambitious targets for offshore wind expansion (pic credit: Eneco)

UK and Dutch grid operators are exploring the possibility of connecting the two countries’ offshore wind farms with subsea electricity cables, and aim to commission an interconnector project by 2029.

National Grid Ventures, the commercial arm of UK operator National Grid, and Dutch transmission system operator (TSO) Tennet are looking at how to connect up to 4GW of offshore wind between the two countries’ electricity systems.

This would provide an additional 2GW of interconnection capacity, they advised.

It would also enable spare transmission capacity to be used to trade electricity between the countries, increasing the potential utilisation of offshore infrastructure, the companies explained.

Reducing the infrastructure needed would also mitigate the environmental impact on coastal communities, compared to the current approach, whereby interconnectors and wind farms are developed and connected separately, they suggested.

National Grid Ventures and Tennet aim to have concrete plans for a pathfinder project by the end of 2021 and aim to deliver an operational project by 2029.

They plan to use the 4000MW IJmuiden Ver I-IV IJmuiden Ver I-IV (4000MW) OffshoreNetherlands, Europe Click to see full details wind farm off the Dutch coast, and are considering potential sites off the UK, including areas to be leased in seabed landlord the Crown Estate's fourth leasing round, a National Grid spokeswoman explained.

Both countries have set ambitious targets to grow their offshore wind fleets.

The UK aims to have 40GW of operational offshore wind capacity by 2030, while the Netherlands plans to have 11.5GW of offshore wind capacity by 2030, and then an additional 20-40GW by 2050

Meeting these targets will require new infrastructure and close cooperation between countries around the North Sea, Tennet and National Grid Ventures explained.

The operators will study the technical challenges of building a multi-terminal HVDC (high-voltage direct-current) link in an offshore environment and the potential socio-economic impact of a more coordinated offshore development process on coastal and inshore communities.

They will also conduct a “regulatory and market study” to consider how the link will be available to a wind farm operator when needed for transmitting wind power, but also available to the market for arbitrage trading when not needed by wind farms.

A National Grid spokeswoman added that all arrangements will “need to be operable in a post-Brexit environment”.

Cross-border wind farms

WindEurope stated that 100-150GW of cross-border offshore wind farms – with connections to more than one country – could be built by 2050. This could help Europe reach the total 450GW of offshore wind capacity envisaged by the industry body by 2050.

However, the industry body warned that there must be a clear enabling framework that clarifies the market arrangements for cross-border projects and also incentivises wind farm developers to invest in them.

WindEurope CEO Giles Dickson said: “Hybrid cross-border offshore wind farms, with connections to more than one country, will be a big part of offshore wind. 

“They save money and space and improve energy flows across Europe. The EU needs to create a framework ASAP that will allow Europe to start developing these projects.”

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