offshore wind

Power firms join forces on subsea link to boost UK’s green electricity capacity

Image credit: Dreamstime

Three of the UK’s principal energy firms have committed to developing a multi-billion-pound ‘underwater super-highway’ in the North Sea, which will play an important part in the country’s efforts to achieve net-zero carbon emissions.

The Eastern Link electricity project will be led by SSE, ScottishPower and National Grid, which were confirmed yesterday as the first Principal Partners of the UN’s COP26 climate change event to be held in Glasgow in 2021, along with the NatWest Group banking business.

The link will be made up of some of the world’s longest subsea HVDC (high-voltage, direct-current) cables with a combined capacity of up to 4GW. Its backers say the multi-billion pound investment will support hundreds of green jobs throughout construction and operation.

Setting off from two separate points in Scotland - Peterhead and Torness - the cables will significantly increase the UK’s capacity for renewable power, carrying electricity up to 440km from the east of Scotland, a hub for offshore renewables, down to two points in the north-east of England, Selby and Hawthorn Point. The direct subsea connection will bypass multiple land-based transmission boundaries.

It is proposed to build a converter station for the project at Peterhead, alongside the existing power station and substation.

Forthcoming generation projects that require connection to the electricity grid are driving a need to strengthen the transmission network.

The east coast of Scotland is already home to almost 1GW of operational offshore wind farms with a further 4.4GW in the pipeline and up to 10GW predicted following the outcome of the next Scottish offshore wind leasing round, Scotwind.

Survey works along the route have recently begun, with construction works currently expected to take place from 2024.

Keith Anderson, CEO of ScottishPower said: “COP26 will provide the perfect opportunity for the UK to showcase its innovation, progress and leadership in tackling climate change and we are proud to be major partners in the event.

“We firmly believe the UK can achieve its ambitious Net Zero targets but it must be done through investment and innovation in essential projects like the Eastern Link, providing benefits for customers and society in the long term.”

Alistair Phillips-Davies, chief executive of SSE, said: “The development of the East Coast link is one of the most exciting energy developments over recent decades and is essential to delivering the UK’s 40GW offshore wind target by 2030 and critical to our own commitment to build a network for net zero emissions.”

Nicola Shaw, UK executive director at National Grid, said: “This project will help transport enough renewable electricity for around 4.5 million homes across the UK and will become part of the backbone of the UK’s energy system. It’s a great example of companies working together on impressive engineering feats that will help the country hit its net zero carbon target by 2050.”

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