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Subsea interconnectors as protagonists of offshore renewable grid story






The role of subsea cables in energy security and transition to clean sources is becoming more pronounced within the energy industry, as this is the main component of powering transmission to interconnect terrestrial grids, feed the power from offshore renewable sources – encompassing wind, wave, and tidal energy – into terrestrial grids, and supply power to offshore assets to enable their electrification and slash their greenhouse gas footprint.


While explaining that there is no transition without transmission, Alessandro Blasi, Special Advisor to the IEA Executive Director, pointed out: “While we are trying to electrify everything, we forgot to look at networks, ‘the highways of electricity.’ Grids are a key enabler of energy transition. We need to build more of those and to modernize in order to accompany a power system that changes radically. Some concepts are almost trivial once explained, but we tend to forget those.

“With more and more renewables in the mix, the model changes dramatically. It is not only more distributed and less centralized. But also in terms of locations change completely. Before it was possible to bring the power plant – the center of electricity generation – close to the consumption center, a city for instance. But it is not possible – or at least only rarely – to bring the city closer to the cleaner sources of electricity, as those can be offshore wind farms in the middle of oceans or huge solar panels in a desert.”


Therefore, Blasi underscores that more and more networks need to be upgraded and built to unleash “the massive potential” of renewables and put them at people’s disposal. This is where subsea interconnectors come into play. Europe is the frontrunner in the creation of offshore hubs, taking full advantage of high-voltage direct current (HVDC) electric power transmission systems in a bid to plug in green power to the grid.


To this end, the European Commission has identified various projects of common interest, including three hybrid interconnector projects – TritonLinkBornholm Energy Island (BEI), and Elwind – in the North Sea and the Baltic Sea, which will enable Denmark, Germany, Belgium, Latvia, and Estonia to enrich their green electricity arsenal.


With the zest for a coordinated roll-out of future energy highways with multiple energy connections between North Sea countries on the rise, one or more hubs with interconnectors to bordering North Sea countries – Denmark, the Netherlands, and Germany – are also expected to be bankrolled by the EU.


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