Power engineering firm ABB Group has won a £388 million deal to build a transmission connection to bring Irish wind power to the UK electricity market

The multinational corporation based in Zurich will deliver a 500MW high-voltage direct current (HVDC) link across the Irish Sea on behalf of Ireland’s transmission operator, Eirgrid.

Called the East-West Interconnector, the link will run for 186km between Woodland, just to the north of Dublin, and Deeside in North Wales, with 70km of the route underground.

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ABB will be responsible for system engineering, including design, supply and installation of the sea and land cables, and both converter stations.

It is to use its HVDC Light technology for the project, which involves a series of transportable modules that are factory assembled and pre-tested, with the aim of speeding up delivery time.

The company said the system should be operational in September 2012.

Peter Leupp, head of ABB’s power systems division, said: “ABB’s HVDC Light technology will enhance the stability of both the Irish and U.K transmission grids, and also expand capacity for the use of renewable power.”

Technology

ABB said the project would use a 200kV link, the highest voltage used so far for the type of cable being used, while the 500MW transmission capacity will be the highest yet for the HVDC Light technology.

The company is promising that the technology that will achieve low electrical losses and environmental impacts minimised with neutral electromagnetic fields and oil-free cables.

It is also offering a “black start” capability that will allow restoration of power after an outage without the need for external energy sources.

The only visible parts of the transmission link will be the converter stations at each end that switch AC (alternating current) power to DC (direct current) and back, according to ABB. The subsea portion of the cable will be encased in extruded polymeric insulation, “providing strength and flexibility needed to endure the severe conditions of the Irish Sea”, it said.

As well as giving Irish wind developers access to the UK market, the transmission link will allow Ireland to make use of more wind power with the safety net of importing power from the UK when the wind isn’t blowing.

State-owned Eirgrid submitted a planning application for the East-West Interconnector in November 2008, with a decision awaited from the Irish government.

Separately, Dublin company Imera Power is also developing transmission links between Ireland and Wales, which it is aiming to make the first steps of an offshore grid around the UK .

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