Shetland could be in line to export renewable energy to cities in the south of England, and perhaps even Europe, after a new report this week found that a submarine power cable down the east coast of the UK was economically viable.
The Crown Estate conducted the study, which concluded that a basic offshore network connecting Shetland and Orkney with Aberdeenshire, Norfolk and overland to London would cost up to £1.7bn.
It had been feared that the cost of transmitting renewably sourced electricity from the Northern Isles to major population centres in the south of England would be prohibitive.
But the report by consultants Ecoconnect concludes that such a project could be a success and would allow new renewable energy projects to connect to the national grid.
Viking Energy project manager Aaron Priest said the findings of the Crown Estate report “can only be encouraging for development here in Shetland”.
Mr Priest said that the isles have a “world class economic opportunity” based on its potential renewable energy resources.
“As things stand the local, Shetland electricity grid is at saturation point as far as connecting renewables goes,” he said. “All ambitions to develop renewables in Shetland, be it wind, wave or tide currently depend on obtaining an economic connection to the national electricity grid. Anything which brings new information to bear on such a connection is to be welcomed.”
The Scottish government has indicated its support for the work undertaken by the Crown Estate. Following an energy debate in the Scottish Parliament yesterday, Shetland MSP Tavish Scott said it was important for such work to be continued if Shetland’s renewables potential is to be realised.
Mr Scott said: “It is one of the possibilities for exporting power from the Northern Isles to the centres of population where that power is needed, which is sensible. Whether the Crown Estate ultimately becomes the developer of a cable or not I don’t know, but it’s important that this work is done.
“The significance of this particular plan is that it misses out the Beauly-Denny connection, which is embroiled in a huge amount of controversy and oversubscribed in terms of its capacity.
“There’s no point putting up turbines if you can’t get the power out of the islands. This development on the cable illustrates that Shetland could export its wind capability.”
Viking Energy director Bill Manson said the most important thing in the long-term would be the cost of connecting to such a cable.
Alasdair Rankin, head of marine business development Scotland at the Crown Estate, said the report recognised the potential value of renewable energy resources in the north isles.
Mr Rankin said: “Connection to the national grid is crucial to the long-term viability of the Scottish renewables industry, and improvements to the network are particularly important for green energy projects in the Highlands and Islands.
“As providing clean, sustainable energy climbs higher up the agenda, we at the Crown Estate are committed to supporting and nurturing the industry.”
The report also estimated that a more comprehensive network with links to the Western Isles, Norway, Germany and the Netherlands, which could be connected to the proposed European Supergrid, would cost around £4.8 billion by 2020.
The Crown Estate owns almost all the UK seabed within the 12-mile limit as well as about 55 per cent of the nation’s foreshore, and grants leases for all cables and pipelines that cross its seabed and for those that cross the UK continental shelf out to 200 nautical miles.
A spokesman for the Crown Estate said that further studies into the potential for a cable are now to be conducted.
By Neil Riddell
18 January 2008
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