On the 21st September 2012 the East-West Interconnector linking the United Kingdom with Ireland went live. This high-voltage direct current submarine and subsoil power cable connects the British and Irish electricity markets and is the culmination of a project that was first proposed in the early 1970’s. Approval was given in 2006 and construction started in 2010.
The new interconnector is capable of delivering 500MW (DC) and is expected to benefit both sides of the Irish Sea; Ireland faces the closure of older generation units whilst also looking to export the large amounts of wind power it is forecasted to generate. Furthermore, the link is another step forward in efforts to build a pan-European market.
Complementing existing connections
The EUR600m connection runs beneath the Irish Sea from Deeside (North Wales) to Woodland (County Meath) carries enough power for 300,000 homes, and allows the UK access to Irish green energy (primarily Wind at the moment) and for Ireland to access any excesses in the European markets.
It was built by the Irish operator EirGrid, with support from EU funds, investments from BNP Paribas and Barclays, and loans from the European Investment Bank. Combined with an existing interconnector between Scotland and Northern Ireland, it brings the total capacity for electricity imports to Britain from across the Irish Sea to 1,000MW.
The UK government says it can achieve an EU target to secure 15 per cent of electricity from renew-able sources by 2020 by building domestic capacity, such as offshore wind farms. But with green energy currently accounting for only 3 per cent of the UK total, the government is exploring whether it can use flexibility in the EU directive to import Irish wind power to help meet its targets at lower cost.
The UK is struggling to find the estimated GBP110bn of investment needed to build enough green energy infrastructure to meet its targets, with the threat of legal action and fines from the European Commission if it fails.
The UK also has electricity interconnectors with France and the Netherlands. Further links are planned with Norway and Spain as well as Iceland, which has geothermal and hydroelectric surpluses. Ireland also has more interconnector projects in the planning phase as it seeks to take advantage of its ocean winds by building more turbines.
Data about the interconnector flows can be found at here