Advanced plans by Dutch power grid aims to build power hub possibly at Dogger Bank whose scale would dwarf current offshore sites.
Britain’s homes could be lit and powered by windfarms surrounding an artificial island deep out in the North Sea, under advanced plans by a Dutch energy network.
The radical proposal envisages an island being built to act as a hub for vast offshore windfarms that would eclipse today’s facilities in scale.
Dogger Bank, 125km (78 miles) off the East Yorkshire coast, has been identified as a potentially windy and shallow site.
The power hub would send electricity over a long-distance cable to the UK and Netherlands, and possibly later to Belgium, Germany, and Denmark.
TenneT, the project’s backer and Dutch equivalent of the UK’s National Grid, recently shared early findings of a study that said its plan could be billions of euros cheaper than conventional windfarms and international power cables.
The sci-fi-sounding proposal is sold as an innovative answer to industry’s challenge of continuing to make offshore wind cheaper, as turbines are pushed ever further off the coast to more expensive sites as the best spots closer to land fill up.
Rob van der Hage, who manages TenneT’s offshore wind grid development programme, said: “It’s crucial for industry to continue with the cost reduction path. The big challenge we are facing towards 2030 and 2050 is onshore wind is hampered by local opposition and nearshore is nearly full. It’s logical we are looking at areas further offshore.”
As each further mile out to sea means another mile of expensive cabling to get the power back to land, the firm argues a more innovative approach is needed.
The island idea would theoretically solve that by allowing economies of scale, higher wind speeds and mean relatively short, affordable cables taking power from offshore turbines to the island.
There, converters will change it from alternating current – as used in mains electricity but which incurs losses of power over long distances – to direct current for transmitting back to the UK or Netherlands.
That long distance cable, an interconnector, would give the windfarms flexibility to supply whichever country’s market was paying the most for power at any given time, and mean the power almost always had a use.
To accommodate all the equipment, the island would take up around 5-6 sq km, about a fifth the size of Hayling Island in the English Channel.
While the actual engineering challenge of building the island seems enormous, Van der Hage is not daunted. “Is it difficult? In the Netherlands, when we see a piece of water we want to build islands or land. We’ve been doing that for centuries. That is not the biggest challenge,” he said.
Dogger Bank Wind Farm is a proposed offshore wind farm to be located between 125 to 290 kilometres (78 to 180 mi) off the east coast of Yorkshire in the North Sea, England.
It is being developed by the Forewind consortium.
It is expected that the Dogger Bank development will consist of four offshore wind farms, each with a capacity of up to 1.2 GW, creating a combined capacity of 4.8 GW. Further plans for an additional two 1.2 GW wind farms were shelved in 2015. Planning consent for the first phase of the project (Dogger Bank Creyke Beck) was granted by the UK government in February 2015, and consent for the second phase (Dogger Bank Teesside) was granted in August 2015.