UK is the largest market in the world for offshore wind and has set a target to build 40 gigawatts by 2030, while offshore power and its associated infrastructure is a key part of the UK Government’s plans for net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
In this context, a consultation by the National Grid Electricity System Operator (ESO) examines whether a more integrated approach to the connection of offshore renewable power and interconnectors would be more beneficial – for consumers, coastal communities and the environment - than the current approach.
The so-called 'more integrated approach' could provide ever higher savings (up to 30%) where high levels of offshore wind need to be connected to parts of the onshore network already nearing operational limits, or where wind farms are located far from shore, the report finds.
In addition, there are significant environmental and social benefits, as the number of onshore and offshore assets, cables and onshore landing points could potentially be reduced by around 50%, albeit that some of these assets would be somewhat larger.
The consultation suggests that the majority of the technology required for the integrated design is available now or will be by 2030. However, a key component to release the full benefits of an integrated solution are HVDC circuit breakers. A targeted innovation strategy could help progress these assets to commercial use and establish the UK as a world leader in offshore grids.
Changes to the offshore connection regime will drive more coordination. These include reviewing the assessment process for the location of offshore connections (CION), investigating the packaging of connection offers with other elements such as seabed leases, and a review of where liabilities sit for offshore connections.
Many projects due to connect ahead of 2030 will have connection agreements already in place.
The ESO said it will work with the relevant TOs and developers to continue to progress on the basis of those agreements.