The Anonymous Widower

Moroccan Solar-Plus-Wind To Be Linked To GB In ‘Ground-Breaking’ Xlinks Project

The title of this post, is the same as that of this article on Current News.

This is the first paragraph.

New solar and wind under development in Morocco is to be linked with Britain, with developer Xlinks also seeking to develop a cable manufacturing industry.

It looks to be a very challenging project.

  • The HVDC cable will be 3,800 km long.
  • The plan envisages 10.5 GW of electricity being generated.
  • There will be a 5GW/20GWh battery in Morocco.
  • They will export 3.6 GW of electricity to the UK for at least twenty hours per day.
  • The electricity will be exported to the UK by a cable that skirts to the West of Spain, Portugal and France.
  • The UK end of the cable will be at Alverdiscott in Devon.

All except the last are pushing current technology to the limit.

There is more information on the Morocco-UK Power Project page on the Xlinks web site.

  • The company claims, that it can supply renewable energy, that acts like baseload power.
  • When complete, it could supply eight percent of the UK’s energy needs.

These are my thoughts.

The 3,800 km. HVDC Link

This paragraph on the project web page describes the HVDC link.

Four cables, each 3,800km long form the twin 1.8GW HVDC subsea cable systems that will follow the shallow water route from the Moroccan site to a grid location in Great Britain, passing Spain, Portugal, and France.

It appears that would be 15200 kilometres of cable.

The longest HVDC link in the world is 2375 km. It’s overland and it’s in Brazil.

I can’t think otherwise, than that this will be a very challenging part of the project.

This Google map shows the area of Morocco, where the energy will be generated.

Note.

  1. Guelmim Oued Noun is outlined in red.
  2. The Canary Islands are just off the map to the West.

At least the project will be able to have convenient access to the sea.

This second Google Map shows the <Moroccan, Portuguese and Spanish coasts from Guelmim Oued Noun to the Bay of Biscay.

Note.

  1. The light blue of the Continental Shelf
  2. The darker blue of deeper water.
  3. Guelmim Oued Noun is outlined in red.
  4. The Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean to the West of Guelmim Oued Noun.
  5. Could the cable bring power to Gibraltar?
  6. There are other large cities on the route in Morocco, Portugal and Spain.

This third Google Map shows the Bay of Biscay.

Note.

  1. The light blue of the Continental Shelf
  2. The darker blue of deeper water.
  3. There are a series of islands off the Spanish and French coasts.
  4. Could these islands be used as stepping stones for the cable?

This fourth Google Map shows the Western Approaches to the UK.

Note that the prominent red arrow indicates Alverdiscott, where cable connects to the UK National Grid.

The article also says that they may be building their own cable-manufacturing facility. Does this indicate that there is a shortage of HVDC cable?

10.5 GW Of Zero-Carbon Electricity

This sentence on the project web page describes the power generation.

This “first of a kind” project will generate 10.5GW of zero carbon electricity from the sun and wind to deliver 3.6GW of reliable energy for an average of 20+ hours a day.

It appears that they will be providing a baseload of 3.6 GW to the UK for over twenty hours per day.

Consider.

  • Hinckley Point C has an output of 3.2 GW.
  • As I write this around midnight, the UK is generating 22.2 GW of electricity.

This paragraph from their web site describes the advantages of Morocco.

Most importantly, Morocco benefits from ideal solar and wind resources, required to develop renewable projects that could guarantee suitable power production throughout the year. It has the third highest Global Horizontal Irradiance (GHI) in North Africa, which is 20% greater than Spain’s GHI and over twice that of the UK. Furthermore, the shortest winter day still offers more than 10 hours of sunlight. This helps in providing production profiles that address the needs of the UK power market, especially during periods of low offshore wind production.

It is not a small power station in the wrong place.

The 5GW/20GWh Battery

That is a massive battery.

The world’s largest lithium-ion battery is Gateway Energy Storage in California. It has a capacity of 250 megawatts for one hour.

The proposed battery in Morocco is eighty times as large.

If I was choosing a battery for this application, I believe the only one that has been demonstrated and might work is Highview Power’s CRYOBattery.

I wrote about Highview’s similar type of application to Morocco in Chile in The Power Of Solar With A Large Battery.

But that installation only will only have storage of half a GWh.

But I believe Highview and their partner; MAN Energy Solutions can do it.

Conclusion

I wish the company well, but I have a feeling that there’s a chance, that this will join the large pile of dead mega-projects.

But I do feel that the solar and wind power station in Morocco will be developed.

And like the project in Chile it will have a large Highview CRYOBattery.

 

 

 

September 26, 2021 - Posted by | Energy | , , , , , , ,

35 Comments »

  1. A cable carrying DC? There’s going to quite a voltage drop over that distance. To my mind this is not viable

    Comment by Maurice Reed | September 26, 2021 | Reply

  2. The Sunday Times today has a front-page item on this story, though it takes a more sceptical line. The Current News article neglects to mention that the proposal is dependent on a government guarantee; the ST quotes the BEIS as saying they “are aware of the proposal and keeping the project under review” – i.e. no comment.

    I’ve always thought that putting large solar farms in the Sahara and shipping the power to higher latitudes would be a good idea but, as you say, there are quite a few hurdles to jump for that to work (stable governments in N Africa would help). I was wondering whether there is a practical limit to the distance that can be covered by an HVDC cable, but it seems not.

    Spain ought to be Europe’s solar-power station, with lots of sun and spare land, but they seem to be fast asleep. An alternative to a lengthy under-sea cable would be to bring power overland through France, but I believe atm there are only 2 small interconnectors between Spain and France.

    Comment by Peter Robins | September 26, 2021 | Reply

    • I’ve updated the post.

      Comment by AnonW | September 28, 2021 | Reply

  3. Spain already has two interconnectors with Morocco and is planning another. So far as Spain – France is concerned I don’t know about existing interconnectors but they are digging or are planning a tunnel for one at the moment.

    Comment by fammorris | September 27, 2021 | Reply

    • just looked this up, and it seems my info is way out of date. The tunnel line https://www.ree.es/en/activities/unique-projects/new-interconnection-with-france opened in 2015, and they’re now consulting on a more ambitious 400km subsea cable across the Bay of Biscay https://www.ree.es/en/activities/unique-projects/submarine-interconnection-with-france They concede that Spain remains an ‘electrical island’, but beef up these connections, perhaps to Brittany and on to GB, and I’m not sure that wouldn’t be a better way to bring power from N Africa.

      Comment by Peter Robins | September 27, 2021 | Reply

      • Yes a route through Spain and France too the UK would be far safer and less risky in a number of ways.
        I assume the new interconnector from Spain to France will be routed along the Continental Shelf, the straight route across the Bay of Biscay involves some pretty deep water.

        Comment by fammorris | September 27, 2021

      • yeah, their pdf shows it making a little detour inland to avoid something called the Capbreton canyon, which is apparently 3.5km deep at its deepest point – a bit of a problem if you’re laying a cable. It makes land N of Arcachon, and travels underground for 80km to a substation N of Bordeaux.

        Comment by Peter Robins | September 27, 2021

    • I’ve updated the post.

      Comment by AnonW | September 28, 2021 | Reply

  4. according to Wikipedia, the longest HVDC cable (or, strictly speaking, UHVDC, as it operates at 1100kV) is now Zhundong–Wannan, at 3324km, roughly the straight-line distance from London to the S of Algeria. This has a power rating of 12GW, which is a serious amount of power. The Chinese have been investing massively in infrastructure, including power transmission, in recent years. If anyone can make long-distance solar power transmission feasible, it should be them.

    https://www.cmimarseille.org/blog/covid19-and-eu%E2%80%99s-green-deal-has-time-come-mediterranean-clean-energy is an article pushing for the EU green deal to help bring power from N Africa to Europe. I’d agree with this article, but I’m not sure decision-makers in either the EU or GB have that kind of vision.

    Comment by Peter Robins | September 28, 2021 | Reply

  5. I can see the Morocco-UK link growing into much more than that. It can be extended to Ireland.

    I also think that our wind power will power the North of England and Scotland.

    So I can see Moroccan energy powering the South-western quarter of England with assistance from Hinckley Point.

    With the possible connection of Scotland and Iceland,

    I can see the island of Great Britain developing into an electricity and hydrogen powerhouse for supply to Germany. The Germans are certainly putting their money where their mouth is, by backing BP’s move into wind power in the UK.

    Comment by AnonW | September 28, 2021 | Reply

    • did you mean “Iceland”, or is that a typo for Ireland? An HVDC link with Iceland called Icelink was proposed a few years back, but it doesn’t seem to be mentioned in the plans for either country, so looks like it’s been shelved.

      Comment by Peter Robins | September 29, 2021 | Reply

      • I did mean Iceland! Icelink seems to have gone quiet.

        Comment by AnonW | September 29, 2021

      • gone cold … been frozen … 🙂

        Comment by Peter Robins | September 29, 2021

    • One issue about connections to other countries you’ve mentioned here and elsewhere is the future divergence in economic policy between the UK and the EU. To address that potential Ireland and France are planning the 600kms long Celtic Interconnector between Brittany and County Cork with an intended operating date of 2026.
      As the FT put it….. “the benefits (of relying on interconnectors between the UK and Ireland) could be threatened if Brexit led to the imposition of tariffs on the trading of electricity and gas between the UK and EU.”

      Comment by fammorris | September 30, 2021 | Reply

      • that ought to be a third rail – i.e. don’t touch it. The Irish grid includes N Ireland, which would then be in an even more questionable position if electricity tariffs were introduced. Most of the interconnectors currently planned/being built were planned pre-Brexit, including the Celtic one. Introducing tariffs would go against the whole point of the things, which is to improve flexibility by enabling surplusr power to be moved to where it’s most needed at any given time. It would not be sensiible to change this, and the National Grid makes their position clear https://www.nationalgrid.com/our-businesses/national-grid-ventures/interconnectors-connecting-cleaner-future/connecting

        In any case, AIUI, this new Moroccan proposal isn’t an intereconnector, but a project to build solar power plants in Morocco and export the power to GB via an undersea HVDC cable. I share the scepticism on whether this will (a) come to pass and (b) work as advertised, but it’s really a separate issue to the various Arica-Europe interconnector schemes that have been floated over the years.

        Comment by Peter Robins | September 30, 2021

      • Your points are well made, however I was responding to the ideas of AnonW regarding
        the potential to connect the XLink cable to serve France and Ireland.
        BTW I understand it is practice to either bury or cover these undersea cables in order to protect them. I’d be interested to know something about the way that is achieved.

        Comment by fammorris | September 30, 2021

      • on burial, the NSL (which should be operational shortly, there has been some import/export this month as part of their testing programme) website has some info; see https://northsealink.com/en/cables/selecting-the-offshore-cable-route/ and also the pages on the UK/Norway sections.

        I also found https://europacable.eu/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/Introduction-to-HVDC-Subsea-Cables-16-July-2012_.pdf who seem to be the industry body in Europe. Section 4.2 from p12 has some more detail on the techniques used. This dates from 2012, so may be a bit out-of-date, but I think this procedure is pretty well established now.

        Comment by Peter Robins | September 30, 2021

      • The second link is an excellent introduction to the subject which led me on to another more expansive publication. The more I read about the project the more I recognise what an onerous task it is. Not only is there the construction phase but a demanding lifetime maintenance phase. I never thought that when I got involved with this post that I’d finding myself reading about Eletro-magnetic Interference and Micro Teslas

        Comment by fammorris | September 30, 2021

      • ah yes, the ability of the web to lead you down so many interesting byroads you forget what you were originally looking for.

        What intrigues me is the burial of the interconnector cables in the land sections, which makes them completely invisible. I’m used to thinking of electricity transmission cables dangling from large pylons striding over the landscape. I recently walked along the coast path at Cambois, which goes right past the converter station where the NSL makes land. As the OSM map https://www.openstreetmap.org/node/265352182#map=15/55.1445/-1.5348 shows, there are large numbers of pylons around, but these all date from when the substation served the Blyth power station, and aren’t connected to the converter station, which puzzled me as I walked past. It was only when I got home and investigated further that I found that the NSL cable lands to the N of the planned Britishvolt plant (basically the site of the former rly sidings from the former power station), runs underground to the W of this, and then comes above ground inside the converter building. It then runs underground from the converter to the substation, from where the (AC) power is distributed along the highly visible pylons.

        I had a similar experience last week, when walking along the coast path near Banff. This passes an area of disturbed ground, where I assumed there had been a landslip and the path had to be shored up. However, a bit further on there was a sign informing me that this was where the cable from the Moray East wind farm comes ashore. https://www.morayeast.com/news/moray-east-celebrates-offshore-cable-arrives-onshore shows what this looked at when the cable was being laid (also shows some people walking their dogs along the path). Those works have now all gone, and once the grass grows back there’ll be nothing to show you that a big fat power cable runs through there all the way to the substation at New Deer, some 30km inland.

        Comment by Peter Robins | October 1, 2021

      • Apparently so the literature says, the biggest risk to cable damage is in shallow waters and approaching the shoreline where trawling and anchors being dropped endangers them more than any of the deeper water locations. I not sure whether you used the singular for brevity but reading about the capacity of cables to carry the sort of power envisaged for XLinks it seems that they’ll have to lay a minimum of three cables.
        The Open Source Map was good to see, it gave substance to the reports about BritishVolt.

        Comment by fammorris | October 1, 2021

      • when I was there end July, there were large signboards up explaining what Britishvolt where going to do, but no signs whatsoever of anybody actually doing any work. https://www.google.com/maps/@55.144146,-1.5276771,3a,75y,90t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sScoRTc5OKTvtxvgxTV-vzg!2e0!7i16384!8i8192 shows the signboards (also from July).

        According to NG, NSL has 5 cables.

        Comment by Peter Robins | October 1, 2021

      • I see the NSL is now operational – currently (pun!) contributing a steady 0.68GW of power to GB, roughly the same as IFA-2 and making up for the loss of IFA.

        Comment by Peter Robins | October 3, 2021

      • I just wonder whether people realise how many of these interconnectors exist as what was primarily an EU project.
        Just for anyone else who reads this posting I’ve listed the other ones connected to the UK.
        BritNed
        an independent joint venture with TenneT, connecting the UK and the Netherlands since 2011.
        IFA
        our first between the Dover Straits linking the UK and France, operated together with RTE, the equivalent of the National Grid, since 1986.
        Nemo Link
        A joint venture with Elia connecting the UK and Belgium. In operation since January 2019.
        IFA2
        our second and longer link to France, developed with RTE.
        North Sea Link
        the world’s longest subsea interconnector, linking the UK and Norway. Well it will be until the Europe – Asia link between Greece, Cyprus and Israel is completed.
        In addition to operational links to the UK there are two others, Nautilus planned between Belgium and the UK and Viking from Denmark to the UK that should be on stream in two years time.

        Comment by fammorris | October 3, 2021

      • and don’t forget the 2 with Ireland: Moyle – Antrim-Ayrshire – and EWIC – Meath-Deeside.

        I often use https://grid.iamkate.com/ which to my mind clearly shows how much each is contributing to the power balance at any given time.

        Comment by Peter Robins | October 3, 2021

      • I left the Northern Ireland links out simply because they’re domestic. I also wondered how often power is imported from Northern Ireland to Great Britain?
        Yes very good link that I don’t refer to nearly enough.

        Comment by fammorris | October 3, 2021

      • the historical figures show that the Irish connectors flow mainly from GB to Ireland. I notice though there was a spike in imports last night. Given the windy conditions, that probably means that Ireland had some surplus wind power to sell off cheap, which NG were happy to buy so they could cut down on gas consumption. GB also sold some power to France last night too, no doubt for the same reason.

        Comment by Peter Robins | October 3, 2021

  6. […] Moroccan Solar-Plus-Wind To Be Linked To GB In ‘Ground-Breaking’ Xlinks Project, I forecast that the battery would be from Highview Power, but given the delivery date before […]

    Pingback by How Clean Energy And Jobs Can Flow From Morocco to The UK « The Anonymous Widower | September 29, 2021 | Reply

  7. In all this publicity I read nothing about Morocco’s National Office of Electricity and Drinking Water (ONEE), tasked with the strategy for energy, water and sanitation, nor MASEN the Moroccan Agency Sustainable Energy which is involved with third parties in current energy projects. I’m sure Morroco will be open to initiatives like this XLinks proposal but I’d be more convinced as to its seriousness were there some official Moroccan response. So far no sign of it in Moroccan media.
    All reports of the link talk about it supplying about 8% of the UK’s needs so nothing spare for Icelink or anybody else.

    Comment by fammorris | September 29, 2021 | Reply

    • Given that in his article in The Times, Simon Morrish, the CEO is confident the project can be finished before Hinckley Point C, I suspect he’s got the Moroccans and the finance on board.

      Comment by AnonW | September 29, 2021 | Reply

      • And that given that cable is laid in waters that are within the Exclusive Economic Zones of Spain, Portugal and France….. somehow I doubt your optimism.

        Comment by fammorris | September 29, 2021

  8. I can see that if the French, Portuguese and Spanish wanted to build an interconnector connecting their three countries to share power, building it up the West coast would be a logical way place to put it.

    I’ve just looked at a map of French nuclear power stations and except for in the Loire estuary, they don’t have many power stations on the Western side of the company.

    So it might even be prudent to build a larger capacity cable and connect it to their networks as well.

    Given too, that there’s a lot of desert in Africa, could a later phase see expanded capacity in North Africa take power to North Morocco, Southern Spain, Portugal, Western and Northern Spain, Western France and the Island of Ireland?

    Comment by AnonW | September 29, 2021 | Reply

    • The more I look

      Comment by fammorris | September 29, 2021 | Reply

  9. […] I described the project in detail in Moroccan Solar-Plus-Wind To Be Linked To GB In ‘Ground-Breaking’ Xlinks Project. […]

    Pingback by Could The Morocco-UK Power Project Be Developed Into A Western Europe And Africa Interconnector? « The Anonymous Widower | September 29, 2021 | Reply

  10. We’re just creating a massive-Internet-equivalent for electricity!

    Comment by AnonW | October 3, 2021 | Reply


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