The vision is clear. The aim is to build an artificial island in the North Sea, somewhere between the Netherlands, Germany, the UK, Denmark, and Norway.
On this island, the energy from the surrounding offshore wind farms will be gathered and distributed to the countries around the North Sea. This vision may sound like a distant dream, but Professor Jacob Østergaard from DTU Electrical Engineering is certain that it can become reality in the near future.
“With this concept, it will be possible to ensure green energy for most of Northern Europe. At the same time, this could fuel a new North Sea adventure that can replace oil, and where the strong Danish energy industry can play a key role. We need to quickly start mapping the technological challenges we need to overcome when establishing the new energy solutions, so that Danish companies can be ready to offer the right technologies and services,” says Professor Østergaard.
New ground-breaking tech solutions
This will be done in the North Sea Energy Hub project, headed by the Centre for Electric Power and Energy at DTU Electrical Engineering with participation from the Confederation of Danish Industry (DI) and Energinet in cooperation with Vestas, Siemens-Gamesa, ABB, NKT, Siemens, Ørsted, and Energy Innovation Cluster.
Over the next year and a half, the project will gather the Danish players and determine what kind of research and technological development is needed in order to realize this vision.
Establishing a hub on an artificial island, a floating structure, or similar with wind farms is a completely new way of thinking about energy supply, and the need for innovative technology is thus great. The Energy Technology Development and Demonstration programme (EUDP) has donated EUR 295,000 to the project.
“We at EUDP are happy to support the North Sea Energy Hub, where there’s a desire for looking after long-term Danish commercial interests and the associated needs for new and ground-breaking technological solutions. This is in line with the EUDP’s strategy,” says Chairman of EUDP Thea Larsen.
Focus on storage and energy transmission
The future hub must have the capacity to receive energy from several thousand wind turbines, corresponding to 30GW. By comparison, there are currently 340 Danish offshore wind turbines in the North Sea that deliver a total of about 1.5GW of power.
The concept of an energy island in the middle of the North Sea has a number of benefits. Firstly, wind farms in the middle of the North Sea can go from being located far from shore to being close to the island, reducing the complexity and saving a lot of money. In addition, energy can be transferred from island to shore through the powerful shared connections, which, in addition to transferring the energy to shore, can be used as international interconnections that are important to the energy markets and an efficient green transition.
The idea is that the structure will be built in modules, so that, in time, it will be possible to expand with more islands that can utilize the total wind potential of up to 180GW of offshore wind capacity.
Some of the new technological solutions that need to be developed are new energy transfer methods and storage options.
“Offshore wind power has now become so cheap that it’s one of the most competitive forms of energy in the green transition in Europe. According to the EU Commission, 400GW of offshore wind capacity is to be built by 2050, and the North Sea has thus been chosen as one of the most important pillars in Europe’s energy supply. This is a tremendous opportunity for Denmark, Danish consumers, and Danish industry. But it will require new technological advances and solutions, particularly in terms of transmission, and this project could be an important step on the way,” says Ulrik Stridbæk, Vice President of Ørsted.
The project has just launched and will be completed in the summer of 2020.