Icelandic volcanoes to power UK

The UK Energy Minister, Charles Hendry, is to visit Iceland next month to discuss the possibility of connecting the country to Iceland’s geothermal energy resources.

The energy minister is to visit Iceland in May to discuss connecting the UK to its abundant geothermal energy, and add another cog to the European Union’s vision for a European supergrid.

Charles Hendry

What that means is that Icelandic volcanoes could soon be pumping low carbon electricity into the UK under government-backed plans for thousands of miles of high voltage cables across the ocean floor.

"We are in active discussions with the Icelandic government and they are very keen," Hendry told the Guardian. To reach Iceland, which sits over a mid-ocean split in the earth's crust, the cable would have to be 1,000 to 1,500km long and by far the longest in the world.

Hendry has already met the head of Iceland's national grid about the plan. The web of sea-floor cables – called interconnectors – planned for the next decade would link the UK to a Europe-wide supergrid.

The supergrid would combine the wind and wave power of northern Europe with solar projects such as Desertec in southern Europe and north Africa to deliver reliable, clean energy to meet climate change targets and reduce dependence on fossil fuel imports.

There are two existing international interconnectors, to France and the Netherlands, but nine more are either in construction, formal planning or undergoing feasibility studies. The next to open, in autumn 2012, will be a link between the Republic of Ireland and Wales, allowing green energy from the windswept Atlantic coast of Ireland to be delivered to British homes.

Hendry is frank about the future: "We will be dependent on imported energy." The cables "are an absolutely critical part of energy security and for low carbon energy", he said.

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