Government studies offshore renewables interconnector

The Government has announced that it is studying the possibility of constructing an offshore electricity transmission grid, linking wind and waves resources to the mainland national grid.

Under the ambitious plan outlined by Minister for Energy Brian Wilson on 12 November an offshore electricity transmission grid, along the West coast of Britain, would tap undeveloped renewable resources and link them directly to the mainland national grid. The plan could possibly take the form of an underwater cable to connect parts of the Western seaboard of Scotland, North West of England, Northern Ireland, Western Wales and possibly, the South West of England, directly to the national grid. The west coast of Scotland has huge wind and wave resources, which are currently little exploited and, currently no link exists from the Western Isles or Islay to the national grid.

An initial study, funded by the Government’s renewable research and

development programme, is to be carried out by PB Power Ltd, who will

look into the feasibility of such an interconnector. The study is expected to be completed by the end of the year and will examine issues surrounding cost, geographic location, and the extent to which renewable energy resources can be served by an interconnector.

If the study confirms that the interconnector is economically and technically viable, a second study will follow to examine in more detail cable routings and points of connection with the electricity transmission network. The Scottish Executive is also currently undertaking a study of the Scottish electricity transmission and distribution network which will identify constraints on the system and opportunities for investment. Information from this study, which is expected by the end of the year, will be fed into PB Power’s study.

“The UK has huge untapped renewable resources, but much of this potential can not be fully utilised at present because of weak or non-existent electricity infrastructure in some places,” Wilson said. “The proposed interconnector is a possible means of capturing this powerflow and transmitting it around the UK, without encountering many of the inevitable environmental concerns which land based transmission systems would attract.”

“The Western Seaboard, from the Hebrides down to the West country, could contribute far more of the country’s energy needs if this infrastructure deficiency can be overcome,” he added. “The economic implications of these proposals are enormous.”

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