(OE) Hitachi Energy and industry group WindEurope have published a new report which concludes that Europe needs more meshed grids to ensure its offshore wind development.
Meshed grids are clusters of offshore wind farms with fewer cables connected to the shore that can route power to two or more national grids.
In total, governments across Europe have pledged 150GW by 2030, and by 2050 Europe’s seas will have as much as 450GW of wind farms. The development of offshore grid infrastructure has been relatively uncoordinated until recently. Wind farms generally have been connected to one connection point with little coordinated planning for future development. Subsea interconnectors are also primarily used to connect only two separate national transmission systems.
This is starting to change. Offshore hybrid wind farms connected to more than one national grid include the Kriegers Flak wind farm which connects the Danish and German grids. Offshore hybrids such as this save money and space and enhance energy flows between countries.
The natural evolution of offshore hybrid projects will see them connected to each other to form meshed offshore grids, states the report. This will require a full-scale offshore grid deployment and reinforcement of the onshore grid.
Energy islands will be a key stepping-stone for meshed offshore grids too. Belgium, the Netherlands and Denmark have all announced plans to build these islands. They will serve as hubs gathering electricity from surrounding wind farms and transmitting it to neighbouring grids.
The technology to build meshed grids is available, but it needs to be deployed at scale and more quickly. Developers will need more clarity at European level to mitigate investment risks in order to accelerate the deployment of hybrids. National Governments also need to provide a clear governance framework.
The development of an offshore meshed grid also requires resilient supply chains and visibility of project developments across a longer time frame. Policymakers need to plan for these expansions accordingly, and industry players need to come up with innovative business models.
WindEurope CEO Giles Dickson said: “European Governments have set ambitious offshore wind targets. But we need to focus on grids too. Huge investment is required to connect all these new offshore wind farms to energy consumers. The best solution is to develop a meshed offshore grid which connects multiple national grids to each other. Governments need to be clear about their future plans. A meshed grid requires deep cross-border and cross-sector cooperation. It will also require investments in supply chains and skills.”