A New 450-Mile Undersea Cable Can Help Power the UK With Norwegian Energy

The world's longest power cable will help the UK reduce carbon emissions.
Ameya Paleja
The undersea cable laying in progress.North Sea Link

Residents in the U.K. who were worried about rising gas prices and power uncertainties during the winter can now relax. After this new 450-mile (724 km) undersea cable is switched on, Britain will be able to source power from Norway, the BBC reported.

The decision to tap into a country in the EU could not be more timely for the island nation but sourcing electricity is not as easy as sourcing barrels of gas. The infrastructure to achieve this has been in the works for over six years now, through the North Sea Link project. 

According to the project website, the licenses were given in 2014, and the works on the undersea cable were only completed earlier this year. According to the New Scientist, the undersea cable also runs through a 1.4 mile (2.3 km) tunnel through a mountain near Norway's Kvilldal power station. 

On the U.K.'s end, the cable will land at Blyth, a small town on the eastern coast, which has been marked as Renewable Energy Zone. The interconnector cable, that allows the power to be transferred in either direction has been buried between 3-9 feet (1-3 m) under the seabed using a range of suitable installation conditions, the project website said. The power transmission will be done using High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC), a technique that allows for more controlled and low-loss transmission of bulk power. Either end of the cable has converter stations that can switch the power back into alternating current (AC) for day-to-day applications. 

Diagrammatic representation of how power will be transmitted
Source: North Sea Link

First tested in June, the interconnector cable is currently being operated at a capacity of 700 megawatts which can be further doubled over the next three months to power 1.4 million homes, BBC reported. 

Initially, power is expected to flow into the U.K. but with the scaling up of offshore wind farms, the region hopes to supply power to Norway and even reserve the hydel-power generation for a later day. The U.K. has similar plans of connecting to the power grids of Denmark and Germany over the next couple of years, New Scientist reported. It already has a working arrangement with France that took a hit after a fire broke out at a converter station in mid-September, Bloomberg reported

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By creating a grid of power across the sea, the U.K. not only hopes to ensure that it can meet its power demands in the future, but it can also do so without giving up on its carbon emission targets. The U.K. plans to go carbon neutral by 2050 and the power generated in Europe is more eco-friendly than conventional coal-fired plants that the U.K. currently relies on.

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