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UK plans to create offshore grid to connect wind farms

British TSO National Grid has presented a plan to install an electrical network connecting both the country's offshore wind farms and export cables. Doing so has potential to reduce future infrastructure requirements by as much as 50 percent and saving roughly GBP 6 billion for rate payers ahead of mid-century.

Photo: Joachim Adrian/Politiken/Ritzau Scanpix

National Grid Plc outlined a plan for an offshore grid that will link new wind parks and interconnectors, saving consumers GBP 6 billion pounds by 2050.

The network operator’s vision tackles the problem of how best to bring electricity produced at offshore facilities to the grid. Pairing multi-purpose interconnectors with wind capacity could bring a 50 percent reduction in how much grid infrastructure needs to be built in the next three decades.

The UK is the largest market in the world for offshore wind and has set a target to build 40 GW by 2030, a four-fold increase from now. Achieving this would cost as much as GBP 50 billion pounds and require one turbine to be installed every weekday during the whole of the 2020s, according to Aurora Energy Research Ltd. Linking all this capacity to the onshore grid is likely to be both costly and difficult.

The plan would connect a number of individual wind farms located in a similar geographical area, via the shared use of offshore transmission infrastructure.

Last week, National Grid and Dutch grid Tennet BV announced a plan for a cable to connect offshore wind farms in both nations. The UK network manager’s plan involves more agreements like this one.

“Offshore wind power is a key part of government plans for the UK to meet net zero by 2050,” said Fintan Slye, director of the National Grid electricity system operator. “Our project is assessing the most beneficial approach to offshore networks, examining a range of different technical and engineering solutions to grid connections.”

National Grid is consulting on its plan until Oct. 28.

“The grid must be able to cope in an era of rapidly increasing volumes of renewable power, intermittent generation, flexible electricity markets, undersea interconnectors, battery storage, and households both taking electricity from and supplying it back to the grid,” said Danielle Lane, Vattenfall AB’s UK country manager.

By 2030 Vattenfall will have enough offshore wind capacity to supply 5 million homes.

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