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A 'crazy' artificial island in the North Sea that could supply renewable energy to 80 million people in Europe is set to open in 2027.

Plans for the 2.3 square mile (6 square km) landmass suggest it will be surrounded by fields of offshore wind turbines and come with its own airstrip and harbour.

The 'North Sea Wind Power Hub', which will be home to a small team of permanent staff, will send electricity via long-distance cables to Britain and the Netherlands, and later to Denmark, Germany, Norway and Belgium.

Dogger Bank, 78 miles (125 km) off the East Yorkshire coast, has been identified as a potential shallow and windy building site for the £1.3 billion ($1.75 billion) project.

The site would include buildings for staff housing, an airport, a small network of roads, green spaces and even an artificial lake.

Dutch power grid operator TenneT, the project's backer, recently released a report claiming the island will be billions of euros cheaper than conventional windfarms and international power cables.

The project's backers claim it is an innovative way to make offshore wind power cheaper as available space around the coast fills up and turbines are pushed to more expensive spots further out to sea.

Rob van der Hage, who manages TenneT's offshore wind grid development programme, told the Guardian: 'It's crucial for industry to continue with the cost reduction path.
'The big challenge we are facing towards 2030 and 2050 is onshore wind is hampered by local opposition and nearshore is nearly full. It's logical we are looking at areas further offshore.'

Dogger Bank is relatively shallow with depths of between 15 and 36 metres, which is expected to reduce the cost of the ambitious project, which will rely on a vast and expensive network of underwater cables.

The island would take up around 2-2.3 square miles (5-6 square km) to accommodate its equipment.

Addressing the engineering challenge ahead, Mr Van der Hage said: 'Is it difficult? In the Netherlands, when we see a piece of water we want to build islands or land. We've been doing that for centuries. That is not the biggest challenge.'

The plans have been drawn by a series of energy companies from Denmark, the Netherlands and Germany, including Energinet, a Danish state-owned energy operator.

Discussions with other energy companies and industrial partners, who together will pay for the project, are ongoing.

The next steps for the plan are set for completion later this year with a roadmap published in the Netherlands, which if successful could see the island operational be 2027, with the windfarms to follow, Mr Van der Hage said.

Dutch power grid operator TenneT announced last March that Energinet was the first partner for its plan to create the offshore energy hub.

In an interview at the time, Torben Glar Nielsen, Energinet's technical director, told the Independent: 'Maybe it sounds a bit crazy and science fiction-like but an island on Dogger Bank could make the wind power of the future a lot cheaper and more effective.'

TenneT says that the large European electricity network is based on a 'hub and spoke' principle, and was designed to help the European Union to meet targets for cuts in its carbon dioxide emissions.  

Energinet.dk CEO Peder Østermark Andreasen said the project has the potential to lead to a 'further reduction in prices of grid connections and interconnections.'

TenneT announced last year it is investing £21 billion ($26 billion) over the coming decade to support a number of offshore wind and onshore renewable projects currently in the pipeline.

The company also wishes to improve interconnections between the Netherlands and Germany.

The amount is an increase from the £19 billion ($23 billion) in a March 2016 forecast, after the Dutch government announced plans last autumn for a major acceleration in funding for renewable energy projects.

The plans included permitting 5 gigawatts of new offshore turbine farms, for which TenneT will provide infrastructure.

'If we want to exploit all this green electricity in our Northwest European region to the full, we cannot do so without new power transmission links, both onshore and offshore,' CEO Mel Kroon said in a statement. 'The ongoing coupling of the European energy markets will lead to more convergence of electricity prices in the various European countries, and will make electricity more affordable for end users,' he said.

TenneT reported 2016 underlying operating profit of 701 million euros on revenue of 3.billion euros ($3.41 billion), both down slightly from 2015, due to lower reimbursements for its services.

Source: www.dailymail.co.uk