European Investment Bank provides £500 million for grid connector in the Highlands of Scotland

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A view across the Moray Firth to Caithness, the stretch of water where the cables will be laid.

Since the March 11th blog post on the need for grid connection to Scottish Islands the European Investment Bank (EIB) has agreed to provide £500 million (€618 million) of investment to improve the transmission network in northern Scotland.

The €618 million represents the largest investment in the electricity network in the north of Scotland for 60 years and includes a new 1200 MW subsea cable between Spittal in Caithness and Blackhillock in Moray. The laying of the subsea cable and associated onshore infrastructure works are expected to support 600 jobs during the construction phase.

The EIB Vice President Jonathan Taylor described infrastructure investment such as this as “essential to harness the full potential of new and future renewable energy schemes”, and went on to say that the “investment will ensure more efficient transmission of green energy, enable increased use of renewable power in Scotland and secure energy supply to the Highlands and Scotland’s cities.”

This will be important if Scotland is to realise its target of generating the equivalent of 100% of electricity demand from renewable sources by 2020. Scotland is currently on track to achieve this, having provided the equivalent to 57% of its electricity demand from renewable sources in 2015, according to the most recent Department of Energy and Climate Change figures. However, recent government cuts to renewable subsidy are likely to make further progress more challenging.

Whilst the investment in a subsea cable is a good news story for future renewable development in the UK, it is worth remembering that the UK is holding a referendum in June over whether to stay in the EU. The EIB is the world’s largest international public bank and is 16.1% owned by the UK government but if the UK was to leave it would no longer have a share. This would of course mean the EIB would not invest in the UK at anything like this scale, if at all, in the future.

The UK has received notable investment from the EIB over the years, particularly when it comes to energy; this is summarised in the table below.

Power Challenges in Icelands Westfjords

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Icelands Minister of Industries and Innovation, Ragnheidur Elin Arnadottir

One of the biggest challenges faced by the communities of the Westfjords of Iceland is to secure electricity. The region is not self-sufficient with electricity and needs to “import” electricity from other parts of Iceland.  Only one power line drives electricity to the region and it lies over high mountains. As the northerly location of the region implies it often faces severe weather conditions and the mountaintops can be hazardous during winter storms. 

This is an ongoing challenge which was recently addressed at a conference attended by most of the major stakeholders both local and national.  The Minister of Industries and Innovation, Ragnheiður Elín Árnadóttir, responsible for energy affairs in Iceland on behalf of the government, was among speakers at the conference. In her speech she expressed an interest on behalf of the national government to solve the issues pertaining to creating a more sustainable energy production in the Westfjords.

Other speakers came from the public energy institutions, Landsnet which operate Iceland’s electricity transmission grid, National Energy Authority, Orkubú Vestfjarða (Westfjord Power Company) and energy entrepreneurs in the region.

All evidence points towards increasing demand for electricity in the region. Speakers at the conference agreed that it´s possible to harness more hydro energy. Really good options are available in hydro electricity production in the region but the problem is that they are far away from the main grid. This distance is among the main issues the national government and local actors need to solve. The conference was a small milestone where the stakeholders had a successful discussion on the topic and how it is possible to overcome that barrier.

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XRG Power in Iceland

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XRG – Power is an entrepreneur company in Iceland focusing on innovation and development of generators that produce electricity from low heat geothermal energy (70°C – 85°C).

XRG Power has already developed a prototype  which has already been tested successfully on the floor. XRG generator, a modified and augmented scroll expander, is based on a new approach where the working fluid is optimized for very low temperatures, working in highly concentrated system where use of magnetic materials in generators is optimized.

There are various marketing opportunities for the XRG generators; the possibility to produce electricity in areas where the water is below boiling temperature in the ground, another implementation of the XRG technology will enable electricity production from waste heat. XRG power aims to develop generators that produce electricity from thermal sources for the world market, starting in Iceland.

For more information:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CRAPlK64t7w

http://www.xrgpower.com/