DISCOVER Magazine #7

Offshore submarine transmission

Published in category: Offshore Wind



Chris Anderson
Chief Executive Officer
4C Offshore

Here, exclusively for the Damen Offshore Wind Journal, 4C Offshore CEO Chris Anderson highlights the increasing role of maritime cable laying in the European electricity market. With numerous cross border projects in the planning, opportunities abound for those businesses with the means and the drive to move ahead.

Historically European priorities focused on getting electricity to our homes, how it got there mattered very little. Generating systems were local and so were their grids. As each country developed, local grids were interlinked to form national grids.

Electricity is now integral to our lives, not just to turn on the light and drive industry’s machines, but to power our computers and screens, recharge portable devices, connect personal communications, keep us warm/cool and now power our vehicles.

To satisfy our insatiable appetite we have to develop our national grids in order to reinforce and extend them including crossing national borders, resolving the disparity of energy resources – some countries and areas have surplus energy, others need more. By doing so we deliver electricity to where it is needed.

Changing markets

Countries divided by seas have traditionally seen cross border connections as onerous, as the technology was not available. HVAC was fine for short distances but lost significant power over longer lengths. With the relatively recent advent of HVDC we have the technology. But newer constraints have emerged such as people no longer wanting to see pylons, or have cables buried, on their land. Crossing each plot of land has become formidable. Bad if you have to cable a few kilometres, very bad if you have to cable several hundred. By using the sea where possible, grid reinforcement can be expedited using a sea route corridor. Grids can be interconnected utilising sea crossings.

We have also seen other technology and market drivers emerge in recent times such as ambition for a wider European energy market, cross border capacity to balance supply and demand, and pressure to cut carbon emissions.

Europe leads the way

We now see an unprecedented growth in submarine electricity grid expansion, making history for both its ambition and scale, and creating new opportunity. Europe once again offering an explosive growth market for those with ambition and resources to meet the opportunity.

Europe is the most active region globally for electricity interconnectors with various projects at different stages of development. There are a number supplying cross border electricity. These include Norway-Denmark starting back in the 1970s, UK-France (IFA1), and the more recent BritNed (Netherlands-UK), East West1 (Ireland-UK), and NorNed (Norway-Netherlands).

Eye on the future

Many more projects are due for delivery in the coming 10 years. These projects alone will result in a capital expenditure exceeding €13.5 billion, with 5,000 km of cable routes to be engineered, 10,000 km of new cable to be manufactured, with 7,700 km of cable installed on or in 3,900 km of seabed.

The promise is significant work for cable installation vessels, support vessels, plus additional survey services, engineering, cable equipment, personnel, specialty services, cable protection, onshore converter stations, new substation infrastructure, cable burial onshore, port services and so on.


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