OWC: Building an Industry without Borders

The central theme of the sixth annual Offshore WIND Conference held last month in Amsterdam was “Building an industry without borders.”

According to a study published by the European Commission titled “Study of the benefits of a meshed offshore grid in Northern Seas region,” a meshed offshore grid would cut costs by between EUR 30 and EUR 97 billion over the next 20 years.

As part of the opening session at the conference, Martin Ars, Vattenfall Project Development Manager, gave a keynote speech about the challenges and solutions for the realisation of the interconnected grid.

He explained that there is an offshore grid framework at the EU level. However, at the national levels, the required action is not always taken.

“National governments need to start viewing interconnection as an integral part of offshore wind policy. For every offshore substation, a study should be done on the economic viability of international connections via that substation. In case of a positive outlook, the optionality of interconnection needs to be built in the design of the substation. The outcome of such a study should be public,” Ars said.

He added that national governments have the authority to make this decision as they are giving out the assignment to either the wind farm developer or to the grid operator to build a particular substation.

“Why national governments are not taking actions is hard to say. It is a complicated subject that in general it does not seem to be high enough on the political agenda,” Ars added.

At the moment, there are plans for one offshore wind interconnector between Denmark and Germany. The project comprises a 600MW Kriegers Flak offshore wind farm located in the Danish part of the Baltic Sea.

According to Ars, the two most interesting opportunities for the Netherlands are Borssele and Ijmuiden ver/ hollandse kust to connect to UK wind farms (e.g. East Anglia).

“I can see all these cases potentially happening. Whether this will happen is totally dependent on the actions of the Dutch, Belgium and UK governments,” Ars said.

Borssele area is comprised of four zones. The first two will be connected via substations which do not involve interconnection due to pressure from the developers to have the connections in time, said Marco Kuijpers, Senior Manager at Offshore NL TenneT.

Kuijpers, who was one of the conference attendees, pointed out that, from the governmental point of view, there are a lot of restrictions in cost savings.

“One of the ideas is to standardise platforms as much as possible in order to achieve the reduction in costs,” Kuijpers said.

On the other hand, he stressed that TenneT is looking into an offshore wind grid which would combine German and Danish projects: “At the European level, we are very much looking at this offshore grid development because we see that as a big step into the future.”

“There is always a difference between a very near future, where we have to establish connections in time, and of course, a distant future where there is more time,” Kuijpers concluded.

Offshore WIND Staff; Image: Navingo

Photo: Martin Ars, Vattenfall Project Development Manager

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