UK Backs North Seas Uber Clean Energy Grid

The North, Baltic and Irish seas have become hot spots for offshore wind power development, and the United Kingdom is no small player there. So it was greeted as good news when Prime Minister David Cameron emphasized Britain’s commitment to work with regional leaders on a “supergrid” that would link together clean-energy resources in the greater area.

To give you some idea on the scope of the project sizes being talked about, consider this: the North Sea alone covers a surface area of about 760,000 km. Also,  over 100 GW of offshore wind projects are already in various stages of planning in the EU, which could produce 10% of the EU’s electricity. The UK, in this announcement, will work together through the North Seas Offshore Grid Initiative and share experience with Ministers in the Baltic Energy Market Interconnection Plan (BEMIP) to ensure planning, market, regulatory and technical challenges are properly addressed and the right framework created for industry to invest in future projects.

North Seas wind power plant, European supergrid

image via Vattenfall

According to the European Wind Energy Association, the United Kingdom leads Europe – and the world – in offshore wind power development with 1,341 megawatts (MW) of installed capacity. Northern European neighbors Denmark (854 MWs), the Netherlands (249 MWs), Belgium (195 MWs) and Sweden (164 MWs) follow. The other four members of the nine-nation North Seas Offshore Grid Initiative – Germany, Ireland, Finland and Norway – have 145 MWs between them.

The initiative is seen as vital in helping Europe meet ambitious green-energy targets, Britain’s Department of Energy & Climate Change said, “by balancing some of the challenges of using wind energy, including intermittency and the inability to store electricity.” An example offered was a situation in which surplus wind energy produced off Britain’s coast could be sent to Norway and used to pump water in its hydroelectric power plants. In turn, those hydropower plants could supply electricity to Britain at times of high demand and low wind.

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.