The UK and Norway are now able to share their hydropower and wind energy for the first time, as the world’s longest subsea electricity interconnector begins commercial operations.
The €1.6 billion North Sea Link (NSL) – a joint venture between the UK’s National Grid and Norwegian system operator Statnett – is a 450-mile cable, which connects Blyth in Northumberland with the Norwegian village of Kvilldal, near Stavanger. It will start with a maximum capacity of 700MW and gradually increase to the link’s full capacity of 1400MW over a three-month period. Once at full capacity, NSL will provide enough clean electricity to power 1.4 million homes.
NSL has taken six years to build. Laying of the undersea cables began in 2018 and more than four million working hours have been spent on the project, including 5880 working days at sea.
Norwegian power generation is sourced from hydropower plants, which can respond faster to fluctuations in demand compared to other major generation technologies. However, as the water level in reservoirs is subject to weather conditions, production varies throughout seasons and years.
When wind generation is high and electricity demand low in Britain, NSL will enable renewable power to be exported from the UK, conserving water in Norway’s reservoirs. When demand is high in Britain and there is low wind generation, hydropower can be imported from Norway, helping to ensure secure, affordable and sustainable electricity supplies for UK consumers.
“The UK has a strong energy bond with Norway that goes back decades. North Sea Link is strengthening that bond and enabling both nations to benefit from the flexibility and energy security that interconnectors provide,” commented UK Energy, Clean Growth and Climate Change Minister Greg Hands. “As we prepare to host the UN COP26 summit, this pioneering partnership shows first-hand how crucial international cooperation will be in helping us to deliver on our net zero ambitions and provide clean renewable energy to millions of UK homes.”
North Sea Link will be the fifth interconnector for National Grid, which also operates links to Belgium, France and the Netherlands.