Thursday, 21 June 2012

sharing electric

There are more plans for HVDC links, this time, on the bed of the North Sea between Peterhead and Bergen.

This is also one of the places that Europe is changing most. And at roughly £1.5bn for this one project, it's quite a challenge for the finance director.

North Connect is a five-company, three-country consortium that plans to put a large amount of copper across the North Sea.

now on track to open for electrical traffic in 2010 or 2011. And it's reckoned this will be the first of two such High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) cables between Norway and the UK, with the potential for injection points across the North Sea, where it can link into the giant wind farms being built there.

There's already a Norway-Netherlands link, and one linking across the Baltic to Sweden and Denmark.
The Peterhead connection is unusual in its large capacity, at 1,400 megawatts, and also for its intended two-way traffic. By taking wind power from Scotland when it's in surplus - typically that'll be overnight - it can pump water uphill in Norway's extensive network of hydro stations.

Norway learned from Scotland how to do hydro, and then took to it with vigour. That infrastructure can deliver more efficiently than Scotland, as much of the flow is from glacial melt, whereas Scotland relies on variable rainfall and run-of-river generation, with only a limited amount of pump storage capacity. It may yet build more, but it's much easier and probably cheaper to connect to those who already have the kit in place.
So come th
e morning, when you switch on the kettle, the sluice gates open, the direct current reverses, and Norwegian hydro will be heating your coffee.

we all know you need to produce power in your own country. That's why there's an assumption for many that a shortfall in wind power must be backed up by base load supply.

That's true. There must be back-up. But the back-up may be in a different part of Europe - whether a French nuclear plant, Norwegian hydro or Spanish solar.

And that answers the big question nagging away at the big push for wind power in Britain. If the cables are in place to export it into continental markets, then they're also in place to import it when Britain's becalmed. And in the case of Norway's pump storage, you can put away some surplus for what you might call a rainy day.

you may have noticed, the unit price of solar power has been falling fast. And such integration has to raise questions of whether it will eventually undercut the pricey business of putting big wind turbines out at sea

now we can start to get rid of this fixation on oil and gas.

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