Norway and the UK will share renewable energy for the first time through the operation of the world’s longest subsea cable.
Run as part of the National Grid’s €1.6 billion (£1.3bn) North Sea Link (NSL), the project marks a “major milestone” in the UK’s journey to net-zero.
The 450-mile interconnector, a joint venture between National Grid and Norwegian operator Statnett, will begin with a maximum capacity of 700 megawatts (MW) and gradually increase to the link’s full capacity of 1400MW over a three-month period.
According to Statnett, the gradual increase in capacity follows its “standard approach” for integrating new interconnectors. Once at full capacity, NSL will provide enough clean electricity to power 1.4 million homes.
National Grid said that the NSL will help reduce the burning of fossil fuels in the UK and avoid 23 million tonnes of carbon emissions by 2030.
By 2030, National Grid said that 90% of electricity imported via it’s interconnectors will be from zero carbon sources, saving 100 million tonnes of carbon.
Commenting on the news, UK Energy, Clean Growth and Climate Change Minister Greg Hands said: “The UK has a strong energy bond with Norway that goes back decades.
“NSL is strengthening that bond and enabling both nations to benefit from the flexibility and energy security that interconnectors provide.
“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.”
NSL has taken six years to build, with the start of undersea cables being laid in 2018. More than four million working hours have been spent on the project, including 5,880 working days at sea.
Power generation in Norway is sourced from hydropower plants connected to large reservoirs, 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 is 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, hydro power can be imported from Norway, helping to ensure secure, affordable and sustainable electricity supplies for UK consumers.
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Cordi O’Hara, President of National Grid Ventures, said: “This is an exciting day for National Grid and an important step as we look to diversify and decarbonise the UK’s electricity supply.
“NSL is a truly remarkable feat of engineering. We had to go through mountains, fjords and across the North Sea to make this happen.
“But as we look forward to COP26, NSL is also a great example of two countries working together to maximise their renewable energy resources for mutual benefit.
“We are delighted to have been able to work together with our Norwegian partners Statnett to deliver a world record asset that will make a positive impact on the lives of citizens on both sides of the North Sea.”
Hilde Tonne, CEO of Statnett, added: “The sharing of renewable energy between countries and regions is a prerequisite for delivering a net-zero future for everyone.
“As NSL goes into trial operations, I am proud of the engineering feat produced by our joint team.
“NSL brings the power systems on both sides of the North Sea closer to the future.”