Research council backs North Sea supergrid

A senior lecturer from Aberdeen University’s School of Engineering has been awarded funding of £718,000 from the European Research Council to develop software to support the design and management of a North Sea supergrid.

Earlier this month, ministers from the UK, Ireland, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden signed an agreement to develop the North Sea supergrid to enable integration of offshore wind farms and other marine energy devices.

For his part, Aberdeen University’s Dr Dragan Jovcic will lead a 36-month research project to address the technological challenges of designing the undersea electricity grid, which will consist of high-voltage subsea cables with multiple connections to North Sea countries and multiple DC substations to connect offshore power farms.

Dr Dragan Jovcic said: ’Whilst onshore power grids operate using alternating current [AC], a subsea grid would use direct current [DC] – this is because AC power can only be transmitted over relatively short distances using subsea cables.’

Currently, DC power transmission is only possible from one point to another. A network such as the North Sea supergrid would require a much more complex transmission system where multiple DC lines may interconnect.

’The DC grid should have same level of reliability as traditional AC grids. We will be studying isolation of faults on DC grids using new DC circuit breaking approaches to enable normal grid operation under major disturbances,’ said Jovcic.

’Currently the software to support the design and management of a DC power grid simply does not exist. The development of new modelling platforms for DC substations and DC grid will be the focus of our research.’

The new North Sea supergrid, which will make it easier for EU member states to trade energy and for Scotland to export wind energy, could be operational by 2020.