Clean Energy Connections are Key in UK, and Everywhere

January 10, 2022

Europe is in an energy crunch this winter, having misjudged the speed of economic upturn coming out of Covid shutdowns, manipulations of gas supplies by Russia, and a black swan “wind drought” event over the past summer months. Building out more clean energy and storage, as well as better interconnection over a broad area will be the answer.

New York Times:

Britain’s economic and political ties to Europe may be fraying, but a growing web of undersea electrical cables binds the nation’s vital power system and its clean energy aspirations to the continent.

The longest and most powerful of these cables was recently laid across the North Sea, from a hydroelectric plant in Norway’s rugged mountains to Blyth, an industrial port in northeast England. Completed last year, it stretches 450 miles, roughly the distance from New York to Toronto. The twin cables, each about five inches in diameter, can carry enough power for nearly 1.5 million homes.

The idea is to use the cable to balance the two nations’ power systems and take advantage of differences between them. In the broadest terms, Britain wants to tap into Norway’s often abundant hydropower, while the Norwegians will be able to benefit from surges of electricity from British wind farms that might otherwise be wasted.

The rapid growth of renewable energy sources like wind and solar, whose output varies with the breeze and sunshine, makes such sharing increasingly essential, experts say. These cables connecting one nation’s grid to another, known as interconnectors, allow Europe and other regions to operate like a much larger and more diverse power system that can use surpluses of electricity in one area to offset shortages in others.

“Interconnectors across borders on a continent like Europe are a prerequisite” to enable societies to run on renewable energy, said Hilde Tonne, the chief executive of Statnett, the Norwegian electric grid operator that is a half-owner of the cable, along with Britain’s National Grid.

The ability to share electric power, to import or export it as needed, she added, is crucial to “moving from fossil fuels to an energy mix that is more and more weather based.”

In the coming decades, the effort to tackle climate change will require increasing demands for electricity, not only for battery-operated passenger cars but for heating, industry and other sectors. Experts like Ms. Tonne say it is cheaper and more efficient for European countries to lay cables to make use of each other’s particular energy strengths than to try to do it all on their own. Norway is already wired to neighbors like Sweden and Denmark, and recently built a line to Germany.

Norway’s power needs are usually largely met by a network of hydroelectric plants, but output can slacken when reservoirs run low.

“If we wouldn’t have the ability to import in dry weather and export in wet weather, we would lose a lot of money,” Ms. Tonne said.

The shift to renewables can be turbulent. This fall and winter, consumers in Britain and throughout the continent have been exposed to soaring prices for electricity when the breezes that generate wind power were unusually still and natural gas prices spiked.

Still, the pace of interconnection is accelerating for Britain, whose ambitions to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050 depend to a great extent on renewable energy, notably turbines spinning off the nation’s coasts. Having left the European Union about two years ago, Britain is also betting big on clean energy and green industry to help secure its economic future.

Those aspirations to be a Saudi Arabia of wind, as Prime Minister Boris Johnson has put it, rely to a substantial extent on an expanding network of electric arteries. Britain’s interconnector arsenal is growing rapidly and now has the capacity to provide nearly a quarter of average electricity demand.

Massive interconnections are seen as a clean energy facilitator world wide.

New Atlas:

A colossal US$22-billion infrastructure project will send Australian sunshine more than 3,100 miles (5,000 km) to Singapore, via high-voltage undersea cables. Opening in 2027, it’ll be the largest solar farm and battery storage facility in history.

Australia’s Northern Territory has abundant space and sun; Singapore is pressed for space, and looking to transition to renewable power. The two could soon be connected in one of the largest and most ambitious renewable energy projects ever attempted.

The Australia-Asia PowerLink project, led by Australia’s Sun Cable, plans to create a mammoth “Powell Creek Solar Precinct” on 12,000 hectares (29650 ac) of arid land about 800 km (500 miles) south of Darwin. The site, chosen because it’s one of the most consistently sunny places on Earth, would be home to a mind-boggling 17-20 gigawatts of peak solar power generation and some 36-42 GWh of battery storage.


One Response to “Clean Energy Connections are Key in UK, and Everywhere”

  1. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    A nit: One of the bits in the XLinks video shows a welder using one hand to hold his mask and welding with single-handed control. That’s barbaric. Construction workers cheap out on the most basic equipment.

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