Britain presents coordinated approach to connect 23 GW of offshore wind

The Dudgeon wind farm. Image by: Equinor (www.equinor.com).

July 8 (Renewables Now) - British electricity system operator National Grid ESO on Thursday published the documents for the “Pathway to 2030” Holistic Network Design (HND), which sets out a coordinated approach for the connection of 23 GW of offshore wind on the path to hitting 50 GW by 2030.

At present, Britain has 11.3 GW of grid-connected offshore wind power generation capacity but the point-to-point links used in past projects are now considered to be inefficient for the purposes of connecting more plants on an even larger scale.

“With expectations of future offshore wind capacity now significantly higher, the original model is no longer fit for purpose without potentially risking avoidable impacts on consumers, the environment and communities,” the HND summary report says.

The HND includes a coordinated and integrated approach for the connection and transporting of significant volumes of offshore wind power. It is part of Pathway to 2030, the second of three workstreams established in the government’s Offshore Transmission Network Review (OTNR) to cover offshore wind projects at different stages of development. These are located around Scotland, Wales, the east coast of England north of the Wash, and southwest England.

The HND provides recommendations on the potential location of infrastructure, including offshore cable route corridors and the locations of new substations. It also recommends that 94 reinforcements are made to the existing onshore system by 2030 at a total cost of GBP 21.7 billion (USD 25.96bn/EUR 25.5bn).

The offshore wind projects in scope for the HND were identified in August 2021 and include 8 GW that were successful in the Crown Estate Offshore Wind Leasing Round 4, a further 11 GW from the ScotWind leasing round, assumptions on 1 GW of floating wind from the upcoming Celtic Sea leasing round, plus 3 GW of other sites near to Round 4 and ScotWind projects where opportunities for coordination will be considered.

Meanwhile, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) on Thursday confirmed four initial Pathfinder projects. This label is given to such projects that “are leading the way in utilizing the enabling regulatory and policy changes being developed under the OTNR to deliver significant near-term benefit to the community, the environment and to consumers.”

The four confirmed Pathfinder projects are: Equinor’s proposal for shared transmission infrastructure between the planned extensions to its existing Sheringham Shoal and Dudgeon wind farms off the coast of Norfolk; Ørsted’s proposal for the Gigastack electrolyser, which will run on electricity from the existing Hornsea 2 offshore wind farm in Yorkshire; another Ørsted proposal to co-locate a 200-MW onshore battery to the grid connection of the Hornsea 3 project in East Anglia; and the Project Aquila proposal by SSEN and HVDC Centre that will enable multi-vendor, multi-terminal operation opportunity across future connections into Peterhead.

Also, the developers of the Sea Link, Nautilus and EuroLink interconnectors and the North Falls and Five Estuaries offshore wind farms have committed to exploring the potential for offshore coordination.

In a separate statement, Britain’s three electricity transmission owners, namely National Grid Electricity Transmission, SSEN Transmission and SP Transmission, welcomed the publication of the HND documents, saying that the trio will now move into the Detailed Network Design (DND) stage of the development process, which includes extensive stakeholder engagement and public consultation, alongside relevant environmental assessments.

“In partnership with stakeholders and our supply chain, work has already begun to deliver many of these projects, however, to continue to deliver on Government's world-leading ambitions and timelines we need the right policy and regulatory frameworks. We will now work together with BEIS, Ofgem and the ESO to put these in place,” commented Alice Delahunty, president of National Grid Electricity Transmission.

National Grid ESO cites independent research according to which enabling the connection of this level of new offshore wind could lead to a GBP-54-billion investment in network infrastructure and create up to 168,000 jobs by 2030.

(GBP 1 = USD 1.196/EUR 1.175)

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