Off the grid

A picturesque fjord in Kvilldal, where the Norwegian end of the pipeline will be situated A picturesque fjord in Kvilldal, where the Norwegian end of the pipeline will be situated Geoffrey Kopp
05 Jul
2015
The world’s longest underwater electricity cable will enable sharing of renewable energy between the UK and Norway

When the wind blows in the UK, the National Grid benefits from an injection of electricity generated by wind turbines across the country. But this doesn’t always coincide with periods of high demand – if demand is low, the extra power is lost.

However, from 2021 this extra power will be able to be exported thanks to a 730km underwater cable – known as a sub-sea interconnector – from Blyth, Northumberland, to Kvilldal in Norway. It will allow both countries to profit from this renewable energy source. Similarly, when wind power generation is low, the National Grid will be able to import energy generated by Norway’s low carbon hydropower reservoirs, run by state power grid operator Statnett, to meet demand.

The hope is that this symbiotic relationship will reduce both countries’ dependence on fossil fuels in order to provide a consistent, reliable supply of energy, as already takes place across Europe via a network of overland interconnectors.

‘For us, the increasing challenge is about managing the intermittency of wind generation,’ says Isobel Rowley, spokesperson for the National Grid. ‘To be able to do that with clean energy from Norway should prove very beneficial to us.’

‘Through this exchange, we ensure that we have more efficient use of the renewable sources on both sides, and that investing in new renewable energy is more profitable,’ adds Christer Gilje, Vice President Corporate Communications at Statnett, who described the project as ‘record breaking’.

The interconnector will start construction this year, at a total cost of around €2billion, to be paid jointly by the National Grid and Statnett. With a capacity of 1,400MW, enough to power nearly 750,000 UK homes, it will be the UK’s third sub-sea interconnector, after ones linking us to France and the Netherlands.

This article was published in the July 2015 edition of Geographical Magazine

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