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Supergrid concept

Schematic structure of the Super Grid in Europe - Source: Airtricity
 


Source: Source: Airtricity, European Offshore Supergrid Proposal.

Advantages of creating a power grid, which would enable the transmission of energy on long distances, have been noticed at the beginning of the 20th century, but low profitability of AC transmission on long distances was a significant barrier to the development of this concept. In 1954 the HVDC (high-voltage, direct current ) technology was first applied to transmit electricity between Gotland and Sweden on a distance of 98 km via seabed cables .

The use of the HVDC technology for the transmission of electricity reaches the profitability threshold at the distance 550-850 km for overhead power lines (exact values depend on the local conditions on the execution of the line and the characteristics of the AC system ). Works on the construction of the world's longest network using HVDC technology were completed in 2014. The network combines hydroelectric power station in Porto Velho power from the main point of the south-eastern Brazil. Connection length is 2 375 km.

The HVDC technology provided the possibility to create a supranational super power grid (“Super Grid”), which will enable the transmission of energy between the most distant places in the world. Dr Eddy O’Conor - MD at Airtricity - is regarded as the author of this concept .

Super Grid is defined as a “system of transmitting electricity, based on DC, for the purpose of large-scale, sustainable production of electricity and its transmission to distant places for consumption” .

The basic assumption of this concept is the improvement of functioning of the energy markets. There are three major reasons for the creation of the idea of Super Grid:
  • an assumption that the future energy policy must be in line with the imperative of energy efficiency,
  • the grid must be based on local, safe, sustainable, clean and competitive energy sources, which may also give Europe the competitive advantage on an international scale,
  • the grid should apply the basic ideas associated with the establishment of the EU: solidarity between the member states and their mutual activity on a global scale .
The concept of Super Grid in Europe aims not only at integrating power grids of the member states, but also on the connection via this grid of all installations used for the production of energy from renewable sources - in particular from offshore wind power plants.

 

» Read more about the Super Grid concept


Super Grid is an axis, around which the idea of establishing not just a competitive, but a dominating position of offshore wind farms on the energy market oscillates. Thanks to the Super Grid the major drawback of offshore wind energy - the dependency on weather conditions - may be compensated - in case of conditions unfavourable for the generation of electricity in one place, the energy generated by a wind farm in another location could be used instead.

“Common sense suggests that it would be absurd to try to connect separately hundreds of offshore wind farms, spread over thousands of square kilometres, to the national power grids on individual terms. The result of such activity would also be very costly and chaotic. Creating the Super Grid in Europe would lead to a scale effect and to the decrease of fluctuations in the energy production, as well as to the creation of a basis to establish a supranational energy marker” .

One of the basic assumptions of the EU energy policy is the creation of a single energy market. At first glance one can see the full correlation between the concept of the Super Grid and the idea of a single market: according to the definition, Super Grid is associated with the “improvement of functioning of the energy markets”  and with “establishing the supranational energy market” .

Implementation of the idea of a common power grid requires serious investments and is associated with the need to overcome many technological barriers . However, the experts agree that the profitability of such project in a long-term perspective, as well as its progressive nature, will have a crucial impact on the development of the energy sector in Europe and in the world.