The first of a new wave of energy interconnectors is about to go online. The Nemo Link will connect the energy systems in the UK to the energy systems in Belgium.
The project has cost around £600 million and consists of a cable running along the seabed. The route it runs stretches for eighty miles between the two sites. The two places connected are Richborough in Kent and Zeebrugge in Belgium, which is the seaport and subdivision of Bruges. It is the first energy interconnector built since 2011 and the first linking the UK to Belgium.
Final testing is underway, and it is expected to be switched on and start transmitting power in early 2019.
Interconnectors Ideal for Redistribution of Surplus Energy
The project is intended to provide both the UK and Belgium with improved energy reliability. It will achieve this by providing easier access to electricity as well as sustainable energy generation.
The Nemo Link has been built by National Grid Plc (not the National Grid) alongside Belgian partners, Elia. The Chief Executive of National Grid Plc, John Pettigrew, expounded on the importance of such interconnectors like the Nemo Link. Mr Pettigrew said,
“As we’re going through the energy transformation, we’ve got a lot of changes in generation. Interconnectors are increasingly important.
“There are going to be periods going forward where there is surplus renewable energy, too much wind or too much solar. Therefore, being able to take it from a local area and move it around Europe is good for carbon emissions.”
National Grid Plc has previously developed other electricity transmission systems. One previously built interconnector of theirs connects to France and is called the Interconnexion France Angleterre, or HVDC Cross-Channel. Another connects the UK to the Netherlands and is called BritNed.
How the Nemo Link Works
As previously mentioned, the Nemo Link will consist of cables running for eighty miles underground and along the seabed. The cables will be connected to converter stations and electricity substations in Richborough and Zeebrugge. The connection will then allow electricity to flow in either direction between the UK and Belgium. Such interconnectors are considered to be crucial for managing the intermittent nature of renewable energy.
A matching converter station and substation has been built in Herdersbrug, an industrial area in Bruges, and part of the Zeebrugge (Bruges-on-Sea) subdivision. The UK’s Richborough site in Kent measures eight hectares and sits on the site of the former power station there. The repurposing of the former power station site will now form part of the Richborough Energy Park proposals.
Brexit Threatening European Energy Deals
Many involved in the development and construction of the Nemo Link remain hopeful that Brexit will not ruin the project. Mr Pettigrew said,
“In all the scenarios we are considering, including hard Brexit, there is no reason the energy can’t flow.”
With the Brexit consequences still an unknown factor, even the optimistic Mr Pettigrew admitted energy trading could become increasingly difficult should a hard Brexit result in the UK exiting the EU’s internal energy market.
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