Britain, Norway to study North Sea supergrid link

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Britain and Norway may link up via the world's longest subsea power cable to share energy from windfarms in the North Sea when it is windy and Nordic hydropower when it is not, their grid operators said on Tuesday

Britain plans to plant thousands of wind turbines in the North Sea over the next few decades to slash climate-warming carbon emissions from the energy sector without littering the countryside with windfarms.

Norway already gets most of its electricity from hydropower plants, which could serve as back up during calm periods if Norway could use Britain’s clean energy output on windy days.

“Greater interconnection with Europe will be an important tool to help us balance the system with large quantities of variable wind generation in the UK,” Nick Winser, director for transmission at Britain’s National Grid said.

“If a UK-Norway link can become the backbone of a new North Sea “supergrid” it will play an especially valuable role.”

Britain is relying heavily on wind turbines to meet its own greenhouse gas emissions cuts targets and renewable energy goals set by Brussels but it needs back up for when there is little wind.

With limited hydropower resources of its own, Britain on calm day would have to rely on gas and coal fired power plants, both of which produce climate-warming gases, a problem that a link with Norway’s vast hydro reserves could overcome.

The two grid operators, which would hold 50/50 stakes in the cable, have done a pre-feasibility study that indicated the high voltage direct current cable connecting the two countries could be economically and technically viable.

Norwegian network operator Statnett has already decided to run the cable into Norway at Kvilldal in Rogaland but the landing point on England’s eastern coast has not been decided.

The two companies will now study the optimal route for the cable and the best regulatory model for the project, which could also supply low carbon electricity to power-hungry oil and gas platforms in the North Sea.

The project may then proceed to formal planning and licence applications in Norway and Britain, followed by a final investment decision.

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