Ocean Kinetics - The Engineering Experts

Letters / I have my doubts

Ian Duncan says: “The North Sea grid project is shovel ready. We need to have the money there to unlock the potential.” (Shetland could be northern supergrid hub; SN, 07/03/16).

Shovel ready (what an inappropriate phrase! It’s like big quarries being described as borrow pits)? Perhaps he hasn’t read the NAEN report (of which the SIC’s report forms an appendix), whose executive summary states:

“Due to lack of infrastructure and experience a cable connection between Greenland and the neighbouring countries is not realistic in the nearest future…

“There are many unclear aspects that need to be investigated further to draw a full picture of the pros and cons of interconnectors from Iceland. The legal and regulatory framework must be in place before a project of this kind can be realized and extensive grid reinforcements are needed to support export through a cable at a single connection point in Iceland…

“A 100 MW cable between Iceland and Faroe Islands is possible but might not be economically competitive…

“Although the NAEN project has the potential for localized introduction of electricity from renewable resources for both Shetland and oil platforms along the cable route, the economic benefit seems reduced with respect to Norwegian interest. This especially so with the new HVDC subsea interconnector to Great Britain to be finished in 2021.”

That “the idea is being forcefully promoted within the European Union by MEPs representing countries fringing the North Sea” may of course just be this MEP’s fantasy.

“Duncan said there was fierce competition across Europe for the €1 trillion that will need to be invested in a pan-continental electricity supergrid, with much of the money coming from the EU itself.”

The sad thing, if he’s right, is that there is fierce competition, because the needs and values of the communities (including the environment, onshore and offshore) these projects affect will in that case inevitably be ignored or overridden in the selfish rush to make profit.

What will all the infrastructure entail if all these interconnectors are to pass through Shetland (don’t forget that another is presently proposed to bring Caithness wind power to Shetland)?

More and bigger converter stations? More over-ground and underground cables? More wind farms? The mind boggles.

Meanwhile the SIC report states, in questionable English, that “Shetland’s immediate focus is on a new energy solution for the islands; the Shetland to UK interconnector and Shetland generation projects but realises the potential and scale of developments within the NAEN regions could include Shetland in a wider transmission network.”

It’s hardly a ringing endorsement. And if it’s supposed to strengthen the needs case for the Viking Energy wind farm interconnector, I have my doubts.

James Mackenzie
Sustainable Shetland
The Lea