Renewable Energy Development in the North Sea

The North Sea region is set to benefit from an interconnected power system using renewables.
Published: Tue 02 Sep 2014

The idea behind the European North Sea Energy Alliance is to build intelligent chains, says Alliance director, Gerrit van Werven, who spoke to Engerati at the European Union Sustainable Energy Week.

The power link system

The North Sea Energy Alliance is made up of four countries located along the North Sea.These include the Northern Netherlands, North Western Germany, Scotland and Norway. Their knowledge institutes, government representatives and regional business communities are cooperating to develop renewable energy in the area. While the North Sea provides a significant amount of oil and gas, the Alliance recognizes the potential for renewables development there. The idea is to gradually build a renewables network between the four countries. Eventually, interconnections will be developed so that all resources are shared between the countries.

This power link system will mean that power can be sold to other countries, thus creating a larger market and it will help to create a more stable grid. For instance, when the wind blows in Scotland, but not in Germany, a balance can be created using demand response.

Research network

Over the last year, the Alliance has searched for new options and opportunities for energy production, as well as critical system integration, in the region. “This kind of research cannot be done without innovation policies and knowledge institutes which have now signed a cooperation initiative for this purpose,” explains van Werven. “While we know how to build wind farms, we are still learning how to handle wind energy in a more effective manner.”

In its quest for innovative ideas, the Alliance wants to involve smaller companies as this is often where the innovation is, says Van Werven. The Alliance is in the process of creating a strategy to involve a number of smaller companies to stimulate innovation in the Alliance’s plans.

Optimising existing infrastructure

The Alliance plans to use infrastructure which is being abandoned by oil and gas firms that are slowly running out of business. The infrastructure, which has to be dismantled and decommissioned, is predicted to cost approximately 100 billion Euros. “We would like to use this infrastructure for another 40-50 years for renewables development and deployment. For instance, the existing structure could enable compressed air storage and existing pipes can be used for the power to gas process.”

Van Werven points out that energy storage is a key issue for renewables development in the North Sea. He explains that there are a number of options such as pumping stations in Norway’s mountains, power to gas, underground air storage and even the development of an Atoll in the North Sea where we could build a water pumping system. The Atoll will be highly beneficial since it is close to the generation source and maintenance can be done from the island.

“We want to combine different generation, distribution, transmission and storage options in order to find the best solution for the entire region,” says Van Werven.