19 January 2023
EU and Industry launch new project charting the way for interconnected offshore wind farms and energy islands
Europe is laying the groundwork for interconnected hybrid offshore wind farms. Offshore electricity transmission is a key challenge in getting there. The most efficient way of transporting electricity from offshore wind farms is via multi-terminal high voltage direct current (HVDC) grids. The EU-funded project InterOPERA will set future interoperability standards for these grids. The project was officially launched this week in Lyon, France.
Europe wants to build around 450 GW of offshore wind by 2050. The EU alone wants to have 300 GW by then. So-called hybrid offshore wind farms will play an increasingly important role in delivering this target. In the future offshore wind farms will not only transmit electricity directly to shore. They will also serve as interconnectors between countries and transmit electricity between different wind farms.
WindEurope estimates that up to a third of all offshore wind capacity could be hybrid by 2050. Most of this capacity will be in the North Sea and will require international collaboration between European countries.
Europe so far has one hybrid offshore wind farm: Kriegers Flak, connecting Denmark and Germany. Joint cooperation has been announced for hybrid projects connecting the Netherlands and the UK; Belgium and the UK; Denmark and Germany; Denmark and Belgium; and Estonia and Lithuania.
Three of these projects will be energy islands, gathering electricity generated by surrounding offshore wind farms and distributing it further afield. Energy islands could also act as sites for electricity storage or for producing renewable hydrogen.
The Belgian ‘Princess Elisabeth Island’ in the North Sea will bundle up to 3.5 GW of offshore wind capacity and could have interconnectors linking it with the UK and Denmark. Denmark has plans for two energy islands – an artificial island in the North Sea and another one on the Baltic Sea island of Bornholm. The North Sea energy island could expand to up to 10 GW. The Bornholm island will host 2-3 GW of offshore wind capacity and will be connected to Denmark and Germany.
Moving towards interoperable HVDC systems
Electricity transmission will play a key role in all of these plans. The most efficient way of transporting electricity from offshore wind farms is via multi-terminal high voltage direct current (HVDC) grids. These HVDC systems combine benefits in a cost-effective way. They make the integration of renewables into the electricity system more effective. And they boost market security and resilience.
Ensuring that HVDC systems, HVDC transmission systems or HVDC components from different suppliers can work together – making them “interoperable”- is a top priority in accelerating Europe’s energy transition.
The InterOPERA project
The project “Enabling interoperability of multi-vendor HVDC grids” (InterOPERA), funded by the EU programme for research and innovation, brings together more than 20 European partners. WindEurope will lead the project communication and the dissemination of results. WindEurope can build on the work of the ongoing Ready4DC project which brings key stakeholders together to lay down the basis for the real time demonstration of multi-vendor HVDC grids.
InterOPERA brings eight TSOs, three offshore wind developers, four HVDC equipment manufacturers, two wind turbine manufacturers, two sector associations and two universities together under the coordination of a research and innovation institute.
The project was officially launched on 17-19 January 2023 with a kick-off meeting in Lyon, France. The European Union is co-funding the project with €50m, with another €19m provided by the project partners.
InterOPERA’s main objective is to make future HVDC systems mutually compatible and interoperable by design, and to improve grid forming capabilities of offshore and onshore converters. Future HVDC systems will be modular. Thanks to common functional specifications and standard interfaces, modules based on different technologies and modules supplied by different manufacturers will be able to interact seamlessly and operate together.
The project is not only about developing technical standards but also about agreeing on the procurement, commercial, legal and regulatory frameworks that will facilitate the tendering, building and operation of full-scale HVDC multi-terminal, multi-vendor, multi-purpose real-life applications. These goals and developments are anticipated by 2030.
Eric Lecomte, Policy Officer at the European Commission, says: “The large-scale development of offshore renewable energy will be essential to reach our European Union climate and energy targets and to reduce our dependence on energy imports. The interoperable HVDC technologies to be demonstrated by the InterOPERA project will be a key enabler for the meshed connection of those offshore wind farms to the European power grid.”
Sebastien Silvant, InterOPERA Project Coordinator, SuperGrid Institute, says: “InterOPERA’s ultimate aim is to deliver solutions for all HVDC projects stakeholders, that are directly exploitable to tender, build and operate the first multi-vendor HVDC grid systems in Europe.”
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