Offshore wind and …

Tennet's idea for an artificial island to support offshore wind farms and act as a hub for the European power grid

Tennet’s idea for an artificial island to support offshore wind farms and act as a hub for the European power grid

A couple of weeks ago, in a blog about wind power, I said “Costs continue to fall and are projected to continue falling.” This week the contract to build the first two stages of the massive Borssele wind farm, situated 22 kilometres off the coast of southern Holland, has just been signed. 38 companies and consortiums put in bids and Dong won the bidding process with a bid of 72.70 Euros per MWh. This price is considerably lower than any previous offshore wind farm. This low price has in part been achieved by the Dutch grid operator Tennet paying for the grid connection, but even if these costs are included it brings the cost to just 87 Euros per MWh. This is very competitive with most forms of electricity generation. We will see a lot more wind farms in the North Sea over the coming decade or so, as costs continue to fall.

The Dutch grid operator Tennet is proposing that Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway and the UK cooperate to build an artificial island on the Dogger Bank in the North Sea to act as a hub and spoke centre for offshore wind. There would be cost savings in terms of integrating the various countries electricity grids, so power generated in any one country could be exported to any other country, from wherever supply was greatest to wherever demand was greatest. This seems a great idea to me and could be further improved with the addition of a massive tidal lagoon and pumped storage hydro system being incorporated into this artificial island. The Danish architects Gottlieb Paludan proposed such a system back in 2009. I thought it was brilliant at the time and raved about it in a few talks, but didn’t blog about it, and none of their proposed ‘Green Power Islands’ were actually built, so far as I can tell. Now, with the falling costs of offshore wind, the time may be right to merge these ideas of Gottlieb Paludan and Tennet and build something really useful. I can see many possible benefits to such a system, economically, ecologically and politically. This is a longer term project, and hopefully by the time it is built the Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon will be up and running and demonstrating the benefits of tidal power. For the Dogger Bank idea the bunds (large sea walls) could be raised to include a pumped storage element, meaning it would act as an energy transmission hub, energy generation facility and as an energy storage system. Pretty neat! Will anyone ever build it? Post Brexit Britain feels like the wrong place to be advocating collaboration. It may get built by others, or we might yet see the advantages of such collaborative projects.

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