Brian Wilson, Minister for Energy, today laid out an ambitious vision for the construction of an offshore electricity transmission grid to be built along the West Coast of Britain, an area rich in renewables sources, linking it directly to the mainland national grid.
The West Coast of Britain is said to have large undeveloped renewable resources. If these are to be fully exploited, there will be a need to upgrade the existing electricity infrastructure.
One possibility would be the development of an underwater cable to connect parts of the Western seaboard of Scotland, North West of England, Northern Ireland, Western Wales and possibly, the South West of England, directly to the national grid.
An initial study, funded by the Government’s renewable research and development programme, is to be carried out by PB Power Ltd, who will look into the feasibility of such an interconnector. The study is expected to the completed by the end of the year.
The study will look at a number of issues, including cost, geographic location, and the extent to which renewable energy resources can be served by an interconnector.
If the study confirms that the interconnector is economically and technically viable, a second study will follow to examine in more detail cable routings and points of connection with the electricity transmission network.
‘The UK has huge untapped renewable resources, but much of this potential can not be fully utilised at present because of weak or non-existent electricity infrastructure in some places,’ said Mr Wilson. ‘The proposed interconnector is a possible means of capturing this powerflow and transmitting it around the UK, without encountering many of the inevitable environmental concerns which land based transmission systems would attract.’
The government expects to create a £1 billion market for renewable energy by 2010. The main driver for this will be the renewables obligation, which will put an obligation on electricity suppliers to supply ten per cent of their electricity from renewable sources. In addition a £260 million support programme has been provided over the next three years.