Europe’s Renewable “Supergrid”

By Alok Jha

[The new supergrid] would connect turbines off the wind-lashed north coast of Scotland with Germany’s vast arrays of solar panels, and join the power of waves crashing on to the Belgian and Danish coasts with the hydro-electric dams nestled in Norway’s fjords: Europe’s first electricity grid dedicated to renewable power will become a political reality this month, as nine countries formally draw up plans to link their clean energy projects around the North Sea.

The network, made up of thousands of kilometers of highly efficient undersea cables that could cost up to €30bn (£26.5bn), would solve one of the biggest criticisms faced by renewable power – that unpredictable weather means it is unreliable.

With a renewable supergrid, electricity can be supplied across the continent from wherever the wind is blowing, the sun is shining or the waves are crashing.

Connected to Norway’s many hydro-electric power stations, it could act as a giant 30GW battery for Europe’s clean energy, storing electricity when demand is low and be a major step towards a continent-wide supergrid that could link into the vast potential of solar power farms in North Africa.

By autumn, the nine governments involved – Germany, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Denmark, Sweden and Ireland and the UK – hope to have a plan to begin building a high-voltage direct current network within the next decade. It will be an important step in achieving the European Union’s pledge that, by 2020, 20% of its energy will come from renewable sources.

“We recognize that the North Sea has huge resources, we are exploiting those in the UK quite intensively at the moment,” said the UK’s energy and climate change minister, Lord Hunt. “But there are projects where it might make sense to join up with other countries, so this comes at a very good time for us.”

More than 100GW of offshore wind projects are under development in Europe, around 10% of the EU’s electricity demand, and equivalent to about 100 large coal-fired plants. The surge in wind power means the continent’s grid needs to be adapted, according to Justin Wilkes of the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA). An EWEA study last year outlined where these cables might be built and this is likely to be a starting point for the discussions by the nine countries.

Renewable energy is much more decentralized and is often built in inhospitable places, far from cities. A supergrid in the North Sea would enable a secure and reliable energy supply from renewables by balancing power across the continent.

Norway’s hydro plants – equivalent to about 30 large coal-fired power stations – could use excess power to pump water uphill, ready to let it rush down again, generating electricity, when demand is high. “The benefits of an offshore supergrid are not simply to allow offshore wind farms to connect; if you have additional capacity, which you will do within these lines, it will allow power trading between countries and that improves EU competitiveness,” said Wilkes.

The European Commission has also been studying proposals for a renewable-electricity grid in the North Sea. A working group in the EC’s energy department, led by Georg Wilhelm Adamowitsch, will produce a plan by the end of 2010. He has warned that without additional transmission infrastructure, the EU will not be able to meet its ambitious targets. Hunt said the EC working group’s findings would be fed into the nine-country grid plan.

The cost of a North Sea grid has not yet been calculated, but a study by Greenpeace in 2008 put the price of building a similar grid by 2025 at €15bn-€20bn. This would provide more than 6,000km of cable around the region. The EWEA’s 2009 study suggested the costs of connecting the proposed 100GW wind farms and building interconnectors, into which further wind and wave power farms could be plugged in future, would probably push the bill closer to €30bn. The technical, planning, legal and environmental issues will be discussed at the meeting of the nine this month.

“The first thing we’re aiming for is a common vision,” said Hunt. “We will hopefully sign a memorandum of understanding in the autumn with ministers setting out what we’re trying to do and how we plan to do it.”

All those involved also have an eye on the future, said Wilkes. “The North Sea grid would be the backbone of the future European electricity supergrid,” he said. This supergrid, which has support from scientists at the commission’s Institute for Energy (IE), and political backing from both the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, and Gordon Brown, would link huge solar farms in southern Europe – producing electricity either through photovoltaic cells, or by concentrating the sun’s heat to boil water and drive turbines – with marine, geothermal and wind projects elsewhere on the continent. Scientists at the IE have estimated it would require the capture of just 0.3% of the light falling on the Sahara and the deserts of the Middle East to meet all Europe’s energy needs.

In this grid, electricity would be transmitted along high voltage direct current cables. These are more expensive than traditional alternating-current cables, but they lose less energy over long distances.

Hunt agreed that the European supergrid was a long-term dream, but one worth making a reality. The UK, like other countries, faced “huge challenges with our renewables targets,” he said. “The 2020 target is just the beginning and then we’ve got to aim for 2050 with a decarbonised electricity supply – so we need all the renewables we can get.”

Read the entire Guardian article, here.

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8 Responses to Europe’s Renewable “Supergrid”

  1. Syama Gopala dasa

    supergrids and smartgrids are the future. A few weeks ago Obama also announced investment into the US grid system. Compared to the European grid, the US one needs a lot of renovation and reparation. Would be great if this develops into a supergrid as mentioned above too.

  2. However, HHO gas is now a very practical and helpful fuel that could make the world an energy paradise.
    It’s a shame to see the people put these unnecessary structures up that will all get knocked down, when in fact hydrogen gas is easily produced and used for energy.

    Anyone can acquire the instructions for building hydrogen gas generators and cheaply and easily make unlimited hydrogen gas for energy use.

    I have such instructions and am in the process of building my first hydrogen gas generator.
    One can easily provide energy with generators using hydrogen gas for pennies a gallon.

  3. Energy is the means to control the population. Frankly these artificially large population centers in the Northern Hemispheres would not be possible if not for the massive power grids. Only as the cost of oil and coal increase, more expensive technologies like solar and wind will be brought online. And that also, continues to be heavily taxed and regulated. Other proven and documented systems (ZPE) that generate electricity for free, will unfortunately continue to be subverted and used for more nefarious purposes. We live in a world today where unfortunately the demands of big business are the priority vs the natural needs of humanity.

  4. Vikram Ramsoondur

    Absolutely. In fact, as I pointed out elsewhere, much of the hype about climate change revolves around the dynamics which you correctly identify above.

  5. Climate change is perhaps the biggest hoax perpetrated in modern history. The idea of taxing and regulating one of the fundamental material elements ie carbon, is about as ludicrous an idea as taxing air or water.
    Science is driven by economics. Plain and simple. Carbon trading? Carbon futures? Sounds a lot more like wall street to me.

    • Exactly my view of this subject matter. It is a total scam.
      It is a way for the governments to tax energy use beyond the current tax structure, and for traders (read: multinational capital) to profit from manipulating the market – just like it is done with commodities like oil. That is why junk science of man made global warming has been elevated to the status of religion.

      • Vikram Ramsoondur

        Us three are in concurrence here, Josh and Kulapavanaji. See my contributions to one of the Copenhagen articles posted a couple of weeks ago to gain an idea of how ingrained this entire spoof has become in the brains of some. I was myself positively nonplussed on witnessing this.

        • Vikram I just looked at your comments on the Copenhagen article- “The variable, hence, has to be the structure through and by which the natural longing of populations for the accretion of mundane wealth, as so compassionately embodied in the Vedic artha, one of the four purusarthas, can be sought and sustained without visiting devastation on the ecological niche of the earth’s living species, homo sapiens sapiens included.”- I couldn’t agree more.
          Objectively analysing the entire modern social/ industrial/ economic mechanism we find it is nothing less than a massively egregious (albeit ingeniously) engineered fraud. This great hoax on humanity has been perpetrated systematically through very precise systems of surreptitious organization over the course of, at least, the last century and half, (perhaps much further) and which includes scientific misinformation/disinformation, the introduction of fiat currencies, suppression of technologies and opposing views etc, etc, etc. Relating to the topic of Global Warming here is an article originally published in Newsweek in 1975 about ‘Global Cooling’
          Politics of global governance functions something like this: problem, reaction, solution.
          A ‘problem’ is artificially created, (global warming, or global cooling for example) which generates a predetermined ‘reaction’, and subsequently the ‘savior’ politicians get to provide the predetermined ‘solution’ in order to ‘save’ humanity from the flagitious problem which they artificially created in the first place. Unfortunately the solution typically involves depriving individuals of either rights or income in the form of various taxes, levies, surcharges etc. In this case global carbon tax.
          There is no global warming or global cooling. There is only the rabid aberration of a grossly corrupt, strictly uncouth, and thoroughly abhorrent global leadership structure that care absolutely nothing for the needs of innocent humanity. The Vedic paradigm is diametrically opposite this present unpalatable condition.

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