Artificial islands in the North Sea could power millions of UK homes

Posted: July 20, 2019 by oldbrew in Big Green, Energy, wind
Tags: ,

Artist’s impression of Dogger Bank island [credit: The Independent]

For some on-and-off hours per day, perhaps they could. We’ve heard this one before but it’s being talked up again, as they start to run out of good offshore sites nearer to the coasts of power-hungry and fuel-averse north European countries. But an artificial island plus long-distance undersea power cables won’t come cheap, and that’s without the vast cost of all the wind turbines.

Wind farms that are built more than 30km off the coast can yield more energy but are costly – at least for now, says WIRED.

Dogger Bank, a windy and shallow stretch of sea 125 kilometers (km) off the East Yorkshire coast isn’t an awful lot to look at, unless you’re an energy firm looking for the perfect place to drop a huge new wind farm.

The desolate stretch of the North Sea is being eyed-up for a giant new power hub consisting of three artificial islands that would transfer electricity to the UK, the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark and Norway.

It’s not the first project to propose far-offshore wind turbines. Hornsea One, located 89km off the Yorkshire Coast, has 100 of its 174 turbines spinning and will be the largest in the world once it is fully operational in 2022 – supplying electricity to well over a million households in the UK.

The Danish developer Ørsted has already constructed five wind farms along the eastern coast of the UK with a total capacity of 1.8 gigawatts (GW), situated between seven to 27km out at sea.

But the North Sea Wind Power Hub, a new proposal published in July by TenneT, the Port of Rotterdam, Energinet and Gasunie, aims to build a series of wind farms with up to 15GW of capacity, enough to supply more than 12 million homes in the UK.

“Current policies, market design and regulatory framework should be urgently reconsidered to enable the successful development of multiple Hub-and-Spoke projects towards 2050,” the consortium’s report states.

The first hubs could be electrically connected to the shore in the 2030s and accelerate the development of wind power in the North Sea to help deliver the goals of the Paris climate agreement.

Aside from the need to hit carbon targets, wind farms way out at sea may solve other problems as well: wind farms built close to shore can interfere with shipping lanes and fishing grounds, and can be affected by strong tides or unsuitable seabed. The visual impact is also of concern to some people, including Donald Trump who opposed the construction of a wind farm near his golf course in Aberdeen.

But if there is such a huge potential to build a mega power hub in “windier” sites that would benefit five European countries at once, why are we not already building wind farms further offshore? The general rule of thumb is: the further offshore, the steadier and stronger the winds.

Moving from the current sites where UK wind farms are to the middle of Dogger Bank could see a ten per cent increase in capacity factors, according to Iain Staffell, a lecturer in sustainable energy at Imperial College London.

The UK hasn’t really needed to consider this as many reasonably good sites are close to shore, he says. “We’re only just starting to run out of space closely to shore. It’s particularly Germany and the Netherlands which have quite small coastlines.”

Building far out at sea is a big venture, Staffell says. The running costs of the artificial islands wouldn’t necessarily be more expensive as they would be similar to operating an offshore oil rig with a permanent base. But it only really makes sense for constructions with a capacity of more than 10GW because of the large cost associated with manufacturing the islands and, in particular, the high-voltage direct current cables needed to get the power back to shore.

Undersea cables need to avoid areas where ships may anchor, where trawlers operate or where there are strong currents. The cables then need to come ashore where they aren’t “going to disrupt a port, existing businesses, housing areas or a popular beach and where there is room to install a high-voltage substation and a line of pylons to connect it to the nearest switchyard of the national grid,” says Roger Kemp, a professor of engineering at Lancaster University. That tends to eliminate many cities and areas of outstanding beauty, he adds.

Developers need to weigh up the cost and complexity of building turbines further offshore, against building nearer to shore where sites are more accessible for construction and maintenance, says Ed Reed from Cornwall Insight, an energy consultancy based in Norwich, explaining that “as the offshore wind industry matures, supply chains improve, and technology improvements are made there is a general expectation that offshore wind farms will be deployed further from land, and may even be linked to neighbouring markets.”

And it is the connection between neighbouring markets that will make the business case for any such mega-project as the North Sea Wind Power Hub, says Staffell. “One of the biggest benefits of having this offshore hub instead of connecting a couple of wind farms to the UK, a couple to Germany, a couple to Denmark, is connecting them all to those [artificial] islands.” Power can then be transferred between those countries.

Full article here.

  1. oldbrew says:

    Surely they should be concerned about sea level rise 😎

  2. Gamecock says:

    It’s never costly when you are spending other people’s money.

  3. ivan says:

    Just who is supposed to paying for this stupidity? The developers should provide all the money for building this along with running and maintenance costs. There should be nothing from the the UK government in the way of subsidies either.

    It would be interesting to know who their hidden backers are and what they hope to get out of it. Also, since this appears to be a joint venture with people from other EU countries, what happend when the UK leaves the EU?

  4. Gamecock says:

    ‘when the UK leaves the EU?’

    The world will have ended before then.

    Property question: is Dogger Banks in international waters, or does UK claim it?

  5. oldbrew says:

    The lines demarcating the international rights of Great Britain, the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, and Norway to the North Sea intersect just north of the Dogger Bank; all but Norway have rights to the bank itself.
    – – –
    North Sea Wind Power Hub
    A study commissioned by Dutch electrical grid operator TenneT reported in February 2017 that as much as 110 gigawatts of wind energy generating capacity could ultimately be developed at the Dogger Bank location.
    (also in the link: North Sea Wind Power Hub Consortium)

    They’ll need a lot of expensive HVDC cables for that.

    Outlines of the Dogger bank…

  6. Graeme No.3 says:

    What happens if archaeologists object to disturbing ancient remains? Fishing boats have dredged up same ftom the Dogger Bank.
    Perhaps the necessary rule will be modified to read “nothing within 2 kilometres”.

    Of course, “pay for everything yourself” would finish off the project.

  7. Bill Treuren says:

    perfect for a backup nuclear plant also

    [reply] which makes the wind power redundant

  8. oldbrew says:

    Things are already happening at Dogger Bank – another project.

    Late 2019/early 2020 Onshore construction to commence.
    2021/2022 Offshore construction to commence

  9. A C Osborn says:

    And everything except the island & cables will need replacing in 25 years.

  10. stpaulchuck says:

    another subsidy farm *spit*
    Enough already with the idiot windmills!

  11. RICHARDS says:

    I thought the EU had claimed this as their terretory and were putting a massive wind farm on it.

  12. oldbrew says:

    The EU isn’t a country – well, not yet anyway 😎

  13. hunterson7 says:

    Jonathan Swift would have used the wind farm concept as a huge satirical tool.

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