North Sea and Baltic Sea wind power interconnections one step closer

Cooperation agreements between grid operators pave the way for meshed grid to transport large amounts of offshore wind

Energinet and 50Hertz agreed last year to integrate the 400kV Kontek interconnector and the Kriegers Flak combined grid solution system, connecting Danish and German wind farms

Interconnecting Danish energy islands to Belgium and Germany to boost the transmission of large amounts of energy generated from offshore wind farms across the European electricity system moved one step closer today with the signing of two cooperation agreements.

Denmark’s transmission system operator (TSO) Energinet has agreed with its Belgian counterpart Elia to move the project of an interconnector between a Danish energy island in the North Sea and Belgium “a big step closer”, Energinet said in a statement.

A similar agreement was made between Energinet and German TSO 50Hertz for developing a connection between the Danish energy island at Bornholm, in the Baltic Sea, and Germany. 

The agreements were signed by the three companies' chief executives at the WindEurope Electric City 2021 conference in Copenhagen (23-25 November).

The Danish parliament in June 2020 approved plans for a 3GW island in the North Sea and 2GW on the island of Bornholm in the Baltic Sea, acting as hubs capable of linking up several offshore wind farms and distributing power to countries connected to them.

“I see the cooperation agreement as a big step forward towards Danish energy islands becoming a reality, and with huge gains for a greener Europe,” said Energinet chief executive Thomas Egebo. 

“Today's agreements show not only that the whole idea of energy islands and connections to several countries is a good idea, but also that the countries are very keen to implement the huge offshore wind projects,” Egebo added.

Following today’s agreements, the three TSOs will specifically cooperate on the initiation of feasibility studies and the business cases that are to be used as a basis for national approvals in Belgium, Germany and Denmark.

“The realisation of the Belgian-Danish cable is an important next step in making our electricity system more sustainable,” said Chris Peeters, chief executive of Elia Group. 

He added that the hybrid technology would enable direct access to large wind farms in the far northern North Sea, providing greater security of supply and helping Belgium’s energy-intensive industry to decarbonise. 

“In addition, we will continue to pioneer innovative technologies, giving our companies an edge on the international stage,” Peeters said.

The Bornholm project builds on the existing collaboration between 50Hertz and Energinet, which led the two TSOs to integrate the 400kV Kontek interconnector and the Kriegers Flak combined grid solution system last year, connecting Danish and German wind farms. 

“With Bornholm Energy Island, we now want to go one step further and realise the first real electricity grid hub for the Baltic Sea. This is technically and economically demanding, but together we will master this challenge,” said Stefan Kapferer, chief executive of 50Hertz.

Additionally, Danish climate minister Dan Jørgensen and Belgian energy minister Tinne van der Straeten signed a formal political memorandum of agreement at WindEurope's Electric City conference in Copenhagen supporting the interconnection. Andreas Feicht from the German energy ministry was also present at the signing ceremony and expressed his support.

At the signing ceremony, van der Straeten said the North Sea "will become the power station of Europe".

Giles Dickson, chief executive of WindEurope, underlined the importance of the cooperation agreements between the three TSOs, as well as the wider political agreement.

“Offshore wind is entering a new era. Connecting offshore wind projects to more than one country will improve electricity flows across Europe,” Dickson said. 

“By pooling generation and transmission infrastructure, these "hybrid" offshore wind farms reduce costs and save space.”

The new cooperation agreements are the first steps towards final investment decisions.