'Massive undertaking' to integrate new UK offshore wind – National Grid

Integrating the large amounts of offshore wind the UK is currently developing will require innovation and overcoming massive challenges, according to a senior figure at the country's grid operator.

The innovation needed to upgrade the UK's national grid infrastructure for planed offshore wind capacity will present a "massive undertaking", a top engineer has said (pic credit: Christopher Furlong / Getty Images)

Julian Leslie, the head of networks and chief engineer of networks for the UK’s electricity system operator National Grid, told RenewableUK's Global Offshore Wind 2023 conference that integrating the 50GW of offshore wind capacity the government wants by 2030 presented challenges.

Crucially, grid capacity needs to be built at a faster rate than it had been in the past.

“To try and get that time down is a massive undertaking that requires huge innovation,” Leslie said. 

He added that this innovation could – and indeed needs – to happen across a variety of sectors including in regulation, and also in the digital realm. 

“Data and digital [innovation] can help as well. There are many many options that can be considered. You can use AI (artificial intelligence) to do some of this to really innovate exactly where we go into the communities with the transmission owners, who have a much better understanding of the constraints of land use, and the environmental impacts,” Leslie added. 

The scale of the improvements needed to boost the UK’s grid infrastructure was cited by UK government’s 'offshore wind champion' Tim Pick earlier this year, who produced a report describing the “urgent” need to upgrade it in order to meet future energy demands. 

“If you take just one message from this report, it should be the urgent need to upgrade our national grid for a world of high renewables penetration, and widespread electrification of homes and businesses,” Pick wrote in the report. "Grid connections are increasingly becoming the rate-limiting factor for our offshore wind deployment going forward."