Realising the full potential of offshore wind energy in the North Sea will be crucial for the decarbonisation of the European economy and society. The transmission system operators (TSOs), whose control areas border the North Sea, are aware of this, including the Dutch-German TSO TenneT and National Grid from the UK. Both the Netherlands and the UK have set ambitious targets for their respective development of wind capacity in the North Sea. However, to achieve large-scale growth in offshore wind energy, significant amounts of new infrastructure and close cooperation between the countries around the North Sea will be essential.
On 22 September, TenneT and National Grid announced a cooperation agreement to examine the feasibility of interconnecting Dutch and British wind farms to the energy systems of both countries via submarine cables. The announcement is following a recent decision by the Dutch government to secure the first 2GW offshore transmission grids for high-voltage direct current (HVDC) in the Netherlands for the IJmuiden Ver wind farm zone, located some 80km off the Dutch north-west coast. Under the cooperation agreement, TenneT and National Grid will explore the development of a multi-purpose interconnector (MPI) to simultaneously connect up to 4GW of Dutch and British offshore wind energy between the two national electricity systems, thereby creating an additional 2GW of interconnection capacity.
By connecting to both systems, the MPI will allow the use of free transmission capacity for electricity trade between the two countries, thus improving the utilisation of offshore infrastructure – and possibly decreasing the need for additional infrastructure. This will also reduce the environmental impact on coastal communities compared to the current approach of separately developing and connecting interconnectors and wind farms. The two TSOs intend to have defined a “pathfinder project” by the end of 2021 with the aim of creating an operational system by 2029.
Manon van Beek, CEO of TenneT, comments on the agreement: “TenneT has been at the forefront of developing multi-purpose interconnection to enable the large-scale growth of offshore wind in the North Sea. This agreement allows us to work with National Grid in the North Sea to develop innovative infrastructure that uses every spare electron of offshore wind generation to reach our decarbonisation targets.”