Monday, March 5, 2012

Sustainability and the European Super Grid

Work is being done to connect the UK grid to other European countries and in the long-term a European super grid could one day be created, sharing excess electricity between nations. The super grid is the future electricity system that will enable Europe to undertake a once-off transition to sustainability.

The concept of a super grid was first launched a decade ago and it is defined as "a pan-European transmission network facilitating the integration of large-scale renewable energy and the balancing and transportation of electricity, with the aim of improving the European market".

Supergrid is not an extension of existing or planned point to point HVDC interconnectors between particular EU states. Even the aggregation of these schemes will not provide the network that will be needed to carry marine renewable power generated in our Northern seas to the load centres of central Europe.

Supergrid is a new idea. Unlike point to point connections, Supergrid will involve the creation of "Supernodes" to collect, integrate and route the renewable energy to the best available markets. Supergrid is a trading tool which will enhance the security of supply of all the countries of the EU.

There can, of course, be many forms of Supergrid. The Offshore Supergrid is based on the seas around North Western Europe. There will be others, such as a Solar Supergrid in the Mediterranean. These grids will ultimately be linked to supply electricity across the EU.

The UK is a renewable energy leader but as Rob Norris, press officer at Renewable UK argues, in order for the UK to make the most of the energy generated, investments must be made to the National Grid.

"We're very keen that the UK should play its part in upgrading our National Grid and our links to the European grid, so we can make the most of the energy and not have this absurd situation where you have energy that could be exported going to waste because there's nowhere to put it," he said.

National Grid, which is the UK's largest utility, has been working with local authorities, the Environment Agency and Natural England, amongst others.

Presently in the UK, the National Grid is investing £28 million on refurbishing two sections of overhead line which run between Daines near Manchester, Macclesfield and Cellarhead near Stoke on Trent.

These are part of the network of overhead lines, underground cables and substations that carry high voltage electricity across the country. Engineers will be replacing existing conductors (wires) and repairing or renewing steelwork, foundations and other equipment on some of the pylons. Work is already underway with over 70 workers mobilised and is expected to take until the end of the year to complete. The bulk of the work will be carried out between March and October. There will be no interruption to electricity supplies during the work. The lines affected consist of 178 pylons and 176 stretches of conductor.

© 2012, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.

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