Pan-European Wind Energy Grid Proposed

As more wind energy projects go online in Europe, concerns remain that additional generation will require backup generation from other electricity production to balance out times when the wind doesn’t blow. One of the world’s leading wind energy developers believes it has an answer that could help avoid concerns over backing-up intermittent wind power while also offering a more efficient, dynamic electric grid.

Ireland-based Airtricity this week unveiled plans to create a pan European undersea energy grid, or so-called Supergrid, that would link a series of wind farms from as far ranging locations as the Mediterranean, up to the Bay of Biscay in the Atlantic and all the way up to the North Sea and Baltic Sea. “The scale of this undertaking means that when fully operational Europe will have access to wind energy at all times because the wind will always be blowing somewhere on the grid,” said Airtricity’s Chief Executive, Eddie O’Connor. The company will formally introduce the ambitious plan at a Parliamentary reception for MPs in Westminster today. In conjunction, the wind energy developer will also outline a proposal to build a Euro 22 billion, 10 gigawatt (GW) offshore wind energy project that would cover a wind expanse in the North Sea between the UK, Germany and the Netherlands. The company’s Supergrid concept will play an important complementary role for the project that would greatly eclipse by size any current wind project, offshore or terrestrial. As many as eight million European homes could be powered by a project this size. ABB Ltd. will be the project partner on the transmission side of the Supergrid. Trevor Gregory, Managing Director of ABB said they have established an advanced transmission technology called HVDC light which, among a number of applications, is used for demanding offshore applications. HVDC Light not only feeds electricity to platforms but it also connects and supports the integration of electrical networks. Since the project will require the approval of the EU, and involves multiple countries across almost the entire span of the European continent, Airtricity pitched the plan as an energy proposal for the wider European Union, not to specific nations. “The Supergrid offers a unique opportunity to Member States to improve their security of energy supply,” said the company, in a statement. “The power generated will be a common European rather than a national asset. Wind energy is a continental resource and thanks to the Supergrid it will be the common property of all the Member States. Airtricity has plenty of wind energy experience, operating, among others, the Arklow Bank wind farm, the first real-world test of GE Energy’s large 3.6 MW offshore wind turbines. The company is currently expanding operations into Scotland, England, and parts of the U.S. It currently has several thousands of megawatts of capacity in the planning and construction stages.
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