Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Victoria's Green Matters - 5th May 2011

Deal With IT's Secretary Victoria Nicholls writes a regular column in the East Kent Mercury:
The idea of a European supergrid became reality in December when an agreement was signed by all 10 nations that border the North Sea to link renewable energy generation e.g. wind from the UK, solar from Germany and hydropower from Scandinavia, into a joint venture. High voltage direct current (HVDC) cables allow electricity to be carried for much greater distances than alternating current lines because they lose far less power. This means that it is now possible to move power between countries, enabling the stabilisation of wind power generation by exporting power when there is a surplus and importing it when there is a shortfall.

There has been a HVDC cable in place between France and the UK for 25 years and the first one since then started operations in March this year and runs from the Isle of Grain, in Kent, to Rotterdam in the Netherlands. Electricity has flowed from the Netherlands to the UK for most of the time since the start. More cables are planned to be in operation by 2020, including links from the UK to France, Belgium and Norway. The next cable to become operational in 2012 will run from North Wales to Dublin.

Another exciting development being considered is the sharing of Iceland’s immense geothermal energy reserves, which are constant, and while talks are ongoing, the main problem to overcome after agreement has been reached between nations is the distance between Iceland and Scotland. The longest cable to date is 580 km and the length required would be about 1,300 km.

Critics of renewable energy generation always cite the unreliability and unpredictability of wind and solar power. The European supergrid will go a long way to alleviate worries about the inconsistency of renewables and enable energy to be shared by neighbouring countries.

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