The network, made up of undersea cables that could cost up to €30 billion, would solve one of the biggest criticisms faced by renewable power – that unpredictable weather means that it is unreliable. The supergrid would plug into Norway’s many hydro-power stations, and it could be a major step towards a continent-wide supergrid that could link into the vast potential of solar power farms in North Africa. Norway’s hydropower plants could use excess power for pumped storage.
Over 100GW of offshore wind projects are under development in Europe, around 10 per cent of the EU’s electricity demand. The surge in wind power means that Europe’s grid needs to be adapted, according to Justin Wilkes of the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA). A recent EWEA study outlined where these cables might be built, and this is likely to be a starting point for the discussions by the nine countries. Wilkes said: “The benefits of an offshore supergrid are not simply to allow offshore wind farms to connect; if you have additional capacity, which you will do within these lines, it will allow power trading between countries, and that improves EU competitiveness.”
The European Commission has also been studying proposals for a renewable power grid in the North Sea. A working group in the EC’s energy department, led by Georg Adamowitsch, will produce a plan by the end of 2010. He has warned that without additional transmission infrastructure, the EU will not be able to meet its targets.
The EWEA study suggested that the cost of connecting the proposed 100GW wind farms and building interconnectors, into which further wind and wave power farms could be plugged in future. The technical, planning, legal and environmental issues will be discussed later this month.