UK National Grid in talks to build an energy island in the North Sea

A North Sea Mischakeijser offshore wind farm/Getty Images
National Grid, a UK company, has disclosed that it is currently in negotiations with two parties regarding building an energy island in North Sea. This would utilize wind farms to provide clean electricity to millions in north-west Europe.

Although the idea of a North Sea hub for renewable energy has been around for many years, it has not yet become a reality. This concept envisions offshore wind farms with a greater capacity than the ones currently in use. Sub-sea electricity cables will transport the energy to any country that needs it.

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National Grid is a major provider of long-distance cables, including one that connects Norway to the UK. Its involvement in discussions with other energy companies increases the chances of this idea being realized.


According to Nicola Medalova, National Grid, we are currently in trilateral discussions about an energy island that the UK could connect to. She declined to name the other parties that the company was in discussions with. National Grid spokesperson also declined to confirm that the parties were involved.

The spokesperson said that there are a variety of energy island concepts currently being promoted in different countries like the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark and Denmark. They were also in conversation with all the parties to understand the concepts.

Other North Sea energy network operators have expressed interest in building an island, including Elia (Belgium) and TenneT (Netherlands).

TenneT determined that such a project was technically possible two years ago, despite all the engineering difficulties. The company told New Scientist however that they are not in any concrete talks with National Grid regarding an energy island. Tinne Van der Straeten (Belgian energy minister) said that Belgium would construct an island to connect our wind turbines. This was in line with Elia's May announcement.

Elia spokesperson says that it is working on a second interconnector cable for electricity between the UK (known as Nautilus) and Belgium. However, it is not yet clear if Nautilus will connect to the Belgian energy island.

Continue reading: Mega wind farms and artificial islands planned for North Sea

Denmark is also interested in building an island of energy. In February, the Danish government announced that it would finance a 24-billion island west of the country. Denmark's vision of wind power as a major source of green hydrogen is key, following the ban on new oil or gas fields.

Medalova believes that energy islands can be either built on an existing island or created from scratch. She says that you can combine many technologies in one place. For example, wind, hydrogen and battery storage could all be combined. This can then be connected to either one or two countries. She says that the three-country project is being considered, which indicates that there are three connected countries.

Kees van den Leun, a Dutch-based consultancy Common Futures, says: A connection via an energy hub between the UK, the Netherlands, Belgium, or the Netherlands, would add significant value. This is due to the huge build-out of offshore winds in the UK and the difference in wind peak times between the UK and Europe.

No matter which country the island is connected, it could all benefit from the low-carbon electricity generated by thousands or hundreds of turbines. Medalova says that the energy island could be constructed before 2030. This would help fulfill Boris Johnson's promise of a greener national electricity grid by 2035.

The location of the island has not been revealed. TenneT had previously spoken out about Dogger Bank, a shallow sandbank just off England's north-east coast, as a possible location for the island. This is a remnant from when continental Europe and the UK were one land mass.

National Grid believes that hybrid interconnectors will be the most popular type of new electricity interconnectors. They can connect two countries and also connect to offshore wind farm in the middle. Last year saw the opening of the world's first hybrid interconnector, which connects offshore wind farms in Germany and Denmark to each other.

Medalova claims that the UK government encouraged interconnector and wind farm developers to collaborate on projects this summer to lessen the impact on coastal residents from offshore wind farms. These connections generally require separate connections.

Medalova says that my gut instinct tells me all of our interconnectors will become hybrid. Given the current political climate, the expectations of coastal communities, and the market's movement, it is clear that there is a lot of expectation that we will adopt a collaborative, sharing approach.

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