RENEWED calls have been made for an interconnector cable larger than is currently proposed to be laid between Shetland and the Scottish mainland to maximise future renewable energy exports from the isles.
Parties behind the proposed 29-turbine Energy Isles wind farm in Yell, which could have a maximum capacity of 200MW, have reaffirmed their belief that the long-mooted 600MW subsea link would be too restrictive.
Writing in response to energy regulator Ofgem’s consultation on Shetland’s energy needs, Energy Isles said a 800MW or 1,000MW cable should instead be explored.
The company also claimed that it had been informed that Scottish Hydro Electric Transmission (SHE-T), are thinking of building two 600MW links to deliver increased capacity for the Energy Isles wind farm if it goes ahead.
Energy Isles said the idea of two cables was raised at a meeting between the developer, SHE-T and electricity system operator National Grid ESO in March.
Scottish & Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN), which oversees SHE-T, however, said its plans for a single 600MW link “took full account” of the Energy Isles development and other potential renewable generation.
Energy Isles chairman Angus Ward said Shetland needs a “new transmission link which is appropriately sized, economic and efficient” – calling on SHE-T to develop the 800MW and 1,000MW options quickly.
SHE-T previously confirmed it is minded to give a 600MW interconnector the green light if the proposed 103-turbine, 457MW Viking Energy wind farm is successful in winning subsidy in the current UK Government Contracts for Difference (CfD) auction.
SSEN is also recommending a “whole system” approach for Shetland’s future energy demand needs once the diesel fuel Lerwick Power Station – which will come into breach of emissions law in around a decade’s time – closes in 2025, meaning that energy could be imported to the isles as well as exported via the subsea cable.
The proposed 600MW cable from Kergord to Caithness is expected to cost around £710 million and could be in place by 2024, which is when the Viking Energy wind farm – which is now ultimately controlled by SSE – could start producing energy.
Energy Isles, however, points to a maximum of around 800MW of potential power capacity from projects in Shetland, 200 MW more than what is catered for in the original plan.
That figure includes 457MW from Viking Energy, 50MW from Peel Energy’s Mossy Hill and 72MW from the same company’s Beaw Field, as well as Energy Isles’ 200MW.
The wind farm group adds that there are 10MW of other projects with planning and 12 MW operating, totalling 801MW.
“With a modest annual growth rate of 2.4 per cent, 801MW in 2025 will reach 1,000MW by 2035,” Ward added. However, Energy Isles’ plans are yet to be consented and have attracted objections from Scottish Natural Heritage and Shetland Amenity Trust among others.
Norwegian energy giant brought in
Norwegian state-owned energy giant Statkraft, meanwhile, confirmed that it is developing the Energy Isles wind farm proposal in association with the existing consortium of over 50 shareholders.
The company said that Ofgem should wait until the CfD results are announced – which could be in the coming weeks – before making a final needs case on a transmission link.
“In Statkraft’s view it is already clear that the decision should be for a larger 800/1,000MW link, and Statkraft believes that the evidence available in Q4 2019 will put this beyond any doubt,” Statkraft UK Europe grid manager Guy Nicholson said.
It is unclear at this moment if the proposed Maali interconnector – a possible 600MW cable linking Norway and Shetland which has been mooted for a number of years – plays into things.
However, the company which was behind it – Element Power – has been bought out by Statkraft.
A Statkraft spokesperson said: “Following the Statkraft acquisition of Element Power in October 2018 we acquired an interest in the Maali interconnector project.
“We are currently reviewing all of our options with regard to the Maali project and our involvement going forward.”
The team behind Maali say that the link, which would build on the Caithness cable plans to essentially connect Norway to Scotland via Kergord, would “deliver increased security of supply to Shetland, and provide a means to export surplus wind power in Shetland and Scotland to Norway”.
Larger cable could ‘undermine’ current CfD process
Viking Energy, meanwhile, said in its consultation response in support of the proposed 600MW Caithness-Shetland link that exploring a larger cable would cause a delay to the process and potentially undermine the 2019 CfD bid.
It is thought that an 800MW cable would have an “earliest in service date” of 2025 – a timescale which Energy Isles and Statkraft dispute.
Viking Energy’s Aaron Priest said that “any approach that introduced a fundamental delay” and effectively ruled out the participation of Viking in the 2019 CfD auction “would appear to be entirely self-defeating”.
Writing to Ofgem, Shetland Islands Council said that a 800MW cable and its apparent delay “introduces uncertainty and potentially could result in a scenario of open-ended consenting and re-tendering that could unravel the timeline and plans in place for Viking Energy Wind Farm to successfully meet the 2019 CfD bidding round”.
“This could undermine the project that underpins the needs case for the Shetland interconnector project and Ofgem’s minded position,” the local authority added.
The council added that the 600MW cable is a “good match” for the consented wind projects in Shetland.
“The additional capacity in the 800MW scenario would allow for additional projects to connect but it is not clear how much more onshore wind generation would be considered acceptable on Shetland from a planning perspective, this is not to preclude the potential for marine based renewables such as wave and tidal power,” it said.
SHE-T said to Ofgem that it looked into cable options with capacities ranging from 450MW to 800MW, but there are “no further feasible options” it could have considered.
The company estimated that an 800MW cable to Caithness would cost £753 million.
Speaking this week, Energy Isles director Derek Jamieson said: “Earlier this year we responded to Ofgem’s consultation on the proposed HVDC interconnector asking the regulator to delay its decision on the size of the cable until demand for its use is better understood.
“We identified 12MW already generating on isle and 788MW in planning or consented, taking the total likely demand to around 800MW.
“Because of this, we asked Ofgem to instruct SHE-T to progress the models for all three proposed cable sizes (600MW, 800MW and 1,000MW) and take a more informed decision in late 2019 when CfD results and policy updates are known.
“We believe that the size of the cable should be decided based upon an understanding of need, as well maximising the benefits for the good of our community and economy.
“Provided the needs case justifies it, a larger link would have significant benefits for Shetland such as allowing for further developments in our emerging renewable energy sector such as tidal and floating offshore, as well as being more cost effective for the consumer.”
Campaign group Sustainable Shetland, meanwhile, raised concerns to Ofgem over the proposed transmission link in the “damage the project will lead to for the environment and landscape”, as well as the “negative human impact” the project will have on people living near proposed wind farms.
“Ofgem may not be aware of the degree of controversy surrounding wind farm proposals for Shetland as politicians here often chose to turn a blind eye to the concerns of local residents,” chairman Frank Hay said.
“Viking Energy has often been promoted as a ‘community project’ but in reality it is opposed by a large proportion of the community.”
A spokesperson for SSEN said the energy company has “proposed a deliver a single 600MW subsea circuit from Kergord on Shetland to Noss Head in Caithness on the Scottish mainland, connecting into the existing Caithness-Moray transmission link”.
“We believe our proposal represents a robust, economic case for a transmission link to Shetland and provides the best possible opportunity to support Shetland’s renewable energy potential.”