Power Engineering International

Welcome to the online version of our Power Engineering International (Pei) print publication. This is where to find archive magazine articles as well as our present edition. For any feedback on the content contact us here or discuss on PEi LinkedIn Group

EuropaGrid: has Europe’s dream of an integrated grid come true?

In January privately owned Irish firm Imera Power went public with plans to build EuropaGrid – a €4.4 billion pan-European electricity grid project to develop a more truly integrated network with greater security of supply. Unusually for grid interconnector schemes, the money will be raised almost entirely from private sources. Tim Probert finds out more.

Tim Probert, Deputy Editor

Matters are coming to a head. The European Union (EU) says there is an urgent requirement for both a single electricity market and increased renewable energy production. The European Commission’s Third Energy Package went into greater specifics – it wants to see the “development of a blueprint for a North Sea offshore grid, interconnecting national electricity grids and plugging in planned offshore wind projects”.


The EuropaGrid is intended to become part of a pan-European supergrid.
Click here to enlarge image

The Commission has not had to wait long. In January, Irish firm Imera announced its plans to build EuropaGrid – a €4.4 billion ($6 billion) project that will develop North Sea and Atlantic electricity grids connecting key markets and offshore wind farms, which the ambitious company believes will be the foundation for a pan-European offshore electricity network.

Imera is an asset investment company specializing in the development of subsea power interconnectors and power transmission grids. Its founder, and now president and CEO, is Rory O’Neill, a former executive of Irish gas utility Bord Gáis, is heavily involved with the deregulation of the Irish energy sector.

Since December 2007, Norwegian subsea cable layer Oceanteam ASA has owned 70 per cent of Imera Power, after it merged its Hydragrid business with Imera. Oceanteam Power & Umbilical is the preferred supplier of the subsea preparatory and cable laying work.

POWER LICENSES

At present, Imera holds five licenses and is actively developing interconnectors between Ireland and the UK (East West I + II), France and the UK, and Belgium and the UK (BelBrit). These projects form the foundation for EuropaGrid.

The Imera EuropaGrid project will comprise of two networks. EuropaGrid North Sea will connect Scandinavia, Western Europe and the UK. The first phase represents an investment of €2.76 billion.

EuropaGrid Atlantic will connect the UK, Ireland, France and Spain. The first phase, East West 1 – a 350 MW capacity DC line between the Arklow 220 kV substation in the Republic of Ireland and the Pentir 400 kV substation in North Wales, UK – has been approved by the EU, is ready to go once the financial close has been achieved and is on schedule for delivery in 2010.

O’Neill said: “Because we are a private company, we can build networks faster and cheaper than most regulated organizations. We also have access to the largest fleet of specialized cable-laying vessels and marine engineering expertise through our parent company, Oceanteam.“

In January 2009 the EU reaffirmed its commitment to the development of interconnection and offshore wind projects with a stimulus plan of €500 million of offshore wind and €705 million for electricity interconnector projects. O’Neill says that Imera does not face time or technology barriers compared with competitors and can complete projects within the three-year deadline for interconnector schemes set as part of the EU’s €5 billion stimulus package.

Financial matters

However, Imera does face some barriers with regards to funding. Whereas previous European interconnectors have mostly been built by state-owned/controlled transmission system operators (TSOs), Imera Power is a private concern, and most of the funding is being raised from private equity, with very little governmental support, despite an expected €100 million from the Irish government via the EU stimulus package.

The money is expected to come from infrastructure funds, banks and grant aid. Grace Samodal, commercial director of Imera Power, is confident that the Irish firm can raise the necessary finance for the various schemes. She says: “Despite the recession, infrastructure investment is still strong.

“The energy industry is being supported by governments, and although some pre-credit crunch sources of funding are a little more risk averse, the same kinds of sources are still interested in investing in power infrastructure.”

Imera Power also has a UK-France transmission project lined up: an 800 MW interconnector running from Meneuil in Normandy, northern France to Lovedean in Hampshire, southern England, which will increase the existing cross border capacity by 40 per cent once operational in 2012.

Imera Power has partnered with ABB to provide the technological support for its current interconnector projects. ABB’s scope of work includes the design, project management, manufacture, works testing, shipping, installation, site testing and commissioning of a complete HVDC light transmission link consisting of the converter stations and associated substation works at each end.

HVDC technology

High-voltage direct current (HVDC) light is an environmentally benign technology for modern electrical power transmission systems. HVDC light cables are buried underground and underwater and are therefore invisible.

Imera says the cables emit negligible amounts of electromagnetic fields (EMFs), so there are no health issues. HVDC light cables are made using a strong polymeric insulation material and contain no oil. Overall, the cables provide a minimal impact alternative for large-scale electrical power transmission.


Imera Power has partnered with ABB for EuropaGrid. The equipment chosen is HVDC Light technology. Source: ABB
Click here to enlarge image

The converter stations use state-of-the-art semiconductor technology to deliver highly flexible, reliable and maintainable electrical power transmission. Virtually all components, with the exception of transformers and heat exchangers, are enclosed in a building that can be designed to be visually compatible with the local environment.

Imera uses a technology called HVDC VSC (voltage source converter), extruded polymer underground cables. The system comprises two (or more) converter stations at the ends of the transmission and an underground or submarine cable link between them. Standardized designs with compact, factory assembled, pre-tested transportable modules allow for delivery times as short as 12 months. Converter stations are virtually maintenance free.

Speed is the name of the game

Samodal says Imera Power can build interconnectors much faster than TSOs, which have had little incentive to reduce costs and the build time, which she says has averaged at 14 years. “We’re much faster,” says Samodal “We look to build interconnectors in three years.”

Imera Power’s first project is the East West 1 direct current (DC) line with an interconnection capacity of 350 MW between the Arklow 220 kV substation in the Republic of Ireland and the Pentir 400 kV substation in North Wales. The total length of the link will be approximately 135 km, and it will be laid under the seabed across the Irish Sea.

The project is currently in the design and engineering stages and seeking planning permission. A decision on the project would rest with the Irish government and the Irish regulator. The project is currently on schedule for commissioning in 2010.

Imera says the link would allow Irish-based suppliers to access the UK wholesale market to competitively procure power and increase competition in the Irish market, while enabling UK generators and suppliers to supply customers in Ireland without the need for them to commit to large capital investment in Ireland itself.

As the Imera Power East West Interconnector, development is funded by the private sector and is a market-based solution, the costs of the project will not be recovered by increasing use of regulated system tariffs for all end users in the UK or Ireland, but rather by the users of the cable, large wholesale energy traders. To ensure a return on its hefty investment, Imera Power is seeking a 25-year exemption from EU regulation to own and operate an electricity interconnector.

Samodal likens ownership of capacity rights on Imera’s interconnectors to mobile phone tariffs. Traditionally, users of electricity interconnectors would do so on a pay-as-you-go basis, paying the owner of the interconnector, National Grid/Réseau de Transport d’Electricité (RTE) for the UK-France link, for transaction on a short-term basis. With Imera’s independent East West Interconnector, utilities, TSOs and trading companies will be able to purchase longer-term contracts or ‘season tickets’ for access to the link. Access agreements would be sold on a minimum ten-year basis, with users subject to a maximum megawatt usage limit.

EXEMPT FROM REGULATION

As it would be exempt from EU regulation, Imera Power would not be allowed to pass on its costs to the electricity end user. Therefore it would not be subject to price caps or price falls and would take the full upside and downside risks of power prices. With electricity prices expected to rise in the long term, Imera believes it has a strong business model that will attract investors.

EuropaGrid North Sea, which will connect Scandinavia, Western Europe and the UK, is set to offer another key element of a European electricity ‘supergrid’ – grid access for offshore power generation. Samodal says EuropaGrid North Sea would increase the efficiency of offshore wind farms. “The wind is always blowing somewhere. EuropaGrid North Sea would always give wind energy a place to go.” It is hoped that, once complete, EuropaGrid North Sea would ultimately link up with NordPool, the single electricity market for Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland, making for a secure, open power market across western and northern Europe.

Follow Power Engineering International on Twitter




Editor's Picks

Dr James Watson of Solar Power Europe

The Ideal Future Power Generation Mix - Solar Power Perspective

This latest Power Engineering International Google Hangout features a conversation with Dr James Watson, CEO of Solar Powe...
Joe Kaeser

Bild outlines extent of struggle for power generators

Germany’s biggest selling newspapers have this week provided a telling description of the difficulties associated with the...

RWE in management overhaul of UK arm npower

German utility RWE has initiated a management shake-up at its UK subsidiary RWE npower following dismal half year results.

RWE launches power-to-gas plant in Germany

RWE has today launched a state-of-the-art power-to-gas plant in Germany.

RWE streamlines company to make it ‘future-proof’

The board of Germany’s largest power producer RWE has approved a radical restructuring and streamlining of the company.

Latest Articles


Editorial Guides

Lubrication Challenges for the Biogas Industry in 2015

The biogas industry is growing in importance as the world continues to look for alternative, clean energy sources. However...

Maximising Power Plant Efficiency

The need for power plants to operate at maximum efficiency and flexibility while cutting emissions is greater than ever be...

How to cut your OPEX

How to cut your OPEX In a constantly evolving electricity market, factors such as over capacity and low coal costs can pu...

Buyers Guide Companies

Rolls Royce Energy Systems

We supply gas turbines, compressors and diesel power units to customers ...

Bran & Luebbe, An SPX Brand

Bran & Luebbe, an SPX brand, has been a worldwide leader in metering, an...

Lenox Instrument Co

Lenox Instrument Co is a manufacturer of highly reliable fixed and porta...

ATG Electronics

For more than a decade, ATG Electronics has established itself as a lead...

SWAN Analytical Instruments AG

Is one of the leading manufacturers of online analytical instruments.

Buyers Guide Products

KONREG

Compact voltage regulator, integrates all ...

Excitation System

Our excitation systems are recognized worl...

DMT340 Series Dewpoint and Temperature Transmitters for Very Dry Conditions

The Vaisala DRYCAP® Dewpoint and Temperatu...

MHT410 Moisture, Hydrogen and Temperature Transmitter

The Vaisala Moisture, Hydrogen and Tempera...

Control Servo Motor SMR

A Voith control servo motor is a linear el...

Power Engineering International

Whitepapers

Bridging the Power Gap in Africa: Testing options to manage constrained short to medium term system operations

Around the world, existing power systems face increasingly constrained operations in the short to medium term with available ageing generation capacity.  In this paper, PLEXOS® has been used t...

AVEVA’s Digital Asset Approach - Defining a new era of collaboration in capital projects and asset operations

There is constant, intensive change in the capital projects and asset life cycle management. New challenges and opportunities are continually appearing thanks to dramatic developments in technology...

The bottom line: engine oil impact on engine reliability

A reliable and well-maintained gas-powered engine performs consistently and continuously, which can lead to a healthier bottom line for plant operators. There is a raised awareness around the need ...

Understanding Moisture Dynamics in Power Transformers

In this webinar recording "Moisture Dynamics in Power Transformers" (held originally in September 23, 2014) you will have a chance to learn about the phenomena and its importance to your ...

Latest Digital Edition

  Power
  Engineering
  International
Look Inside >
Cover
Current Issue

Article Archives for Power Engineering International Magazine