TenneT, the primary Dutch electric utility company, is planning to construct a “windfarm island” in the North Sea. This island would serve as an operational hub for a network of nearby offshore wind farms with a facility much larger than any existing centers. The plan, already in its advanced stages, proposes Dogger Bank, 125km (78 miles) off the East Yorkshire coast of England, as a potential location for the wind farm island. Once constructed, the hub would transmit electricity over a long-distance, underwater cable to the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, with eventual connections possible to Belgium, Denmark, and Germany.
As more desirable spots closer to shore are claimed, the maturing wind energy industry is making some bold moves to continue its growth. “It’s crucial for industry to continue with the cost reduction path,” Rob van der Hage, offshore wind grid development program manager at TenneT, told the Guardian. “It’s logical we are looking at areas further offshore.” Though the windfarm island plan is ambitious, the specific details of running such a facility are still in development and its profitability remains to be seen. “As the industry matures, you’d very much expect them to start thinking outside the box,” energy analyst Peter Atherton told the Guardian. “Whether the economics pan out, whether you really can sell North Sea wind out to the continent, is questionable.”
The windfarm island would act as a hub for nearby wind farms, which would send electricity generated to the island along short-distance, inexpensive cables. Once stored, the electricity will be converted from alternate current to direct current, which is more efficient when sending electric power across long distances, for its journey back to the mainland. This allows greater flexibility in the wind market and ensures that a much higher percentage of wind energy is distributed to where it is needed. The Dutch are not daunted by the challenge of building their own windfarm island. “Is it difficult?,” asked Van der Hage rhetorically. “In the Netherlands, when we see a piece of water we want to build islands or land. We’ve been doing that for centuries. That is not the biggest challenge.”
Via the Guardian