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Researchers start work on North Sea supergrid

Aberdeen engineers are investigating new technology to support the development of a massive offshore transmission grid planned for the North Sea.

The North Sea supergrid will enable integration of offshore wind farms and other marine energy. It will also make it easier for EU member states to trade energy and for Scotland to export wind energy.

Earlier this month ministers from the UK, Ireland, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden signed an agreement in support of the project, which could be operational by 2020.

Now, a senior lecturer from the University of Aberdeen's School of Engineering has been awarded €718,000 of funding by the European Research Council to develop software to support the design and management of the grid.

Dr Dragan Jovcic will lead a 36 month research project to address the technological challenges of designing an undersea electricity grid, consisting of high-voltage subsea cables with multiple connections to North Sea countries and multiple DC substations to connect offshore power parks. The grid could also connect to Norwegian hydroelectric projects for electricity storage.

"Whilst onshore power grids operate using AC, a subsea grid would use DC – this is because AC power can only be transmitted over relatively short distances using subsea cables," Dr Jovcic explained.

"The future DC networks will require significant technical advances and we will tackle a number of these challenges in this project.

"Currently DC power transmission is only possible from one point to another. A network such as the North Sea supergrid would require a much more complex transmission system where multiple DC lines may interconnect."

"The DC grid should have same level of reliability as traditional AC grids. We will be studying isolation of faults on DC grids using new DC circuit-breaking approaches, to enable normal grid operation under major disturbances."

"Currently the software to support the design and management of a DC power grid simply does not exist. The development of new modelling platforms for DC substations and DC grid will be the focus of our research."

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