Giant offshore grid to link up north-western Europe

06.01.10 @ 09:26

  1. By Valentina Pop
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BRUSSELS - Nine north-western European countries are planning a giant underwater energy grid in the North Sea linked to wind farms, tidal power stations and hydroelectric plants.

  • Offshore windmills in the North Sea will be connected to a giant underwater cable network (Photo: Tom Jensen/norden.org)

Thousands of kilometers of high-tech energy cables are set to be laid on the seabed of the North Sea in the coming ten years, in what will become Europe's groundbreaking energy park, Germany's Sueddeutsche newspaper reports.

The cables would link existing and new windmills off the German and British coasts with Belgian and Danish tidal power stations and Norwegian hydroelectric plants. The €30-billion project would compensate for the irregular nature of renewable energy and provide a steady flow to the countries involved.

Germany, Great Britain, France, Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands, Belgium, Ireland and Luxembourg are behind the project. Their respective energy ministers last month signed a so-called North Seas' countries offshore initiative, just as the international climate change summit in Copenhagen was kicking off.

"We're already the world leader in offshore wind here in the UK and today's announcements bring new funding and expert direction to grow this vital new industry," Philip Hunt, the British sustainability minister, said in December.

Berlin sees itself as the driving motor behind the scheme. "For Germany, as a country with ambitious offshore-development plans, this initiative has great importance. It focuses on network connection and integration, which is crucial for wind energy to reach consumers and to make offshore energy generation a success," German minister for economy and technology Rainer Bruderle said on Wednesday (5 January) in a press release.

He added that the idea came about during a meeting of French, German and Benelux representatives on energy issues.

After initial meetings in Ireland last year, officials from the nine countries will meet in the February, and aim to sign a binding agreement by the end of 2010. The project is mainly going to be funded by energy firms, which will be drawn into the negotiations. It is expected to produce 100 gigawatts of power.

The EU hopes to generate a fifth of its electricity needs from renewable energy sources by 2020, a move which requires new modern energy grids, capable of absorbing the fluctuations of wind and solar energy.