Manfred Kraxenberger, Senior Manager
Feature. However, with growth comes the need to evolve the approaches used to transmit power from offshore to those that need it on the mainland. Alongside the construction of new wind farms, developing ‘meshed offshore grids’ is essential for Europe’s offshore vision.
Unleashing the full potential of offshore wind
This week, we published a report in partnership with WindEurope which identified the short-to-medium-term actions that will drive offshore industry growth and the creation of meshed offshore grids. These include deploying available technologies at speed and at scale, developing innovative frameworks and specifications to plan, build, operate and maintain meshed offshore grids and driving the next generation of ambitious multi-stakeholder collaborations.
Until recently, development of offshore grid infrastructure has been relatively uncoordinated, leading to wind farms connecting to one onshore point and subsea interconnectors usually connecting only 2 markets, with little coordinated planning for future development. The good news is this is starting to change. Offshore wind farms are connecting with more than one national grid and more countries are seeking to combine interconnectors with offshore turbines.
For instance, Hitachi Energy’s partnership with SSEN Transmission to develop one of Europe’s flagship HVDC multi-terminal projects in Scotland is a leading example of this transformation. Moving further, ‘energy islands’ announced already by Belgium, the Netherlands, and Denmark will serve as hubs gathering electricity from surrounding wind farms and transmitting it to multiple neighbouring grids. These types of projects are known as offshore hybrid projects.
The natural evolution of these offshore hybrid projects will see them being connected to each other, in a coordinated manner, to form meshed offshore grids in Europe’s sea basins.
"Electricity will be the backbone of our evolving energy system and offshore wind as an integral part of the energy mix will play a crucial role in helping us to achieve our carbon neutrality vision."
Overcoming existing barriers
The technology to build these grid solutions exists already and needs to be deployed at scale and more quickly. To unlock this potential, developers need more clarity at both a European and national level to mitigate investment risks associated with accelerating the deployment of offshore hybrid projects, and to make the anticipatory investments necessary to facilitate the offshore infrastructure development. New complexities are also presented by the shift to meshed offshore grids, from building multi-terminal systems by multiple different vendors to connecting clusters of wind farms to multiple markets. And of course, from financing to regulation, and technology to planning, a clear governance framework will be an essential enabler.
Europe’s power systems are facing a period of unprecedented changes as the energy system evolves towards a renewables-based future. Coordination and collaboration will continue to be an essential enabler of the ambitious 2030 targets coming from Europe. The next step in this important journey will be a full-scale offshore grid project deployment.
As our CEO Claudio Facchin aptly states, “Electricity will be the backbone of our evolving energy system and offshore wind as an integral part of the energy mix will play a crucial role in helping us to achieve our carbon neutrality vision”. A coordinated and holistic approach is necessary to ensure the development of a robust and reliable offshore grid that can meet Europe's ambitious targets for renewable energy and greenhouse gas emissions reduction. With the right investments and actions, Europe can successfully harness the power of offshore wind and lead the world in the energy transition as we are advancing a sustainable energy future for all.