North Sea Summit gives tailwind for an interconnected offshore power grid

On April 24, 2023 national Heads of States and Energy Ministers from Belgium, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands meet with industry representatives in Ostend, Belgium, for the second  North Sea Summit.

The aim is to strive for a fast and ambitious build-out of offshore wind and the dedicated grid infrastructure.

TSOs contribution at a glance

As frontrunners in offshore wind, the four countries of the Esbjerg Declaration, Belgium, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands, want to jointly connect 65 GW of offshore wind energy by 2030 and 150 GW by 2050 by establishing interconnected energy hubs in the North Sea.

In addition, 20 GW of hydrogen production capacity on- and offshore should be developed by 2030.

Achieving these goals requires joint planning – now. As leading TSOs, 50Hertz, Amprion, Elia, Energinet, Gasunie and Tennet propose taking a gradual approach for developing an initial offshore grid in the North Sea. It starts with identifying first projects for an offshore grid consisting of hybrid interconnectors, hydrogen infrastructure and offshore energy hubs by the mid-2030s.

Initial offshore grid in the North Sea

With these projects, we will be able to create synergies, achieve a higher utilisation of offshore wind, offer a variety of congestion management options, and ensure better economic returns for the society from the offshore energy and improved utilisation of the invested assets.

North Sea Summit Ostende: Graphic map interconnected offshore power grid

Benefits achievable by an interconnected system

  • Efficiently distribute the investment needs, giving wind developers clear opportunities and long-term investment signals
  • Higher share of direct supply of renewable energy can be integrated into the surrounding markets
  • Higher utilisation of the invested assets
  • Contribute to a higher utilisation of the offshore wind by delivering redundancy
  • Both the use of hubs as well as offshore interconnections create efficient dispatch opportunities and offer a variety of congestion management opportunities

Framework conditions

For the vision of an initial offshore grid in the North Sea to become a reality, we will need to see adjustments to the technical, regulatory and market frameworks that will accelerate projects and speed up the decarbonisation of society.

  • Harmonise technical standards and enable interoperability of projects
  • Additional, incentivising support for innovation and anticipatory design costs
  • A planning and evaluation approach that encompasses a broader offshore grid and related compensation for all impacts on the natural environment on a sea-basin scale
  • Planning and permitting procedures for both the generation and the transmission elements with innovative solutions, lean and workable approaches, and – crucially – a higher pace of realisation

The initial offshore grid as we are proposing here is the first step towards realizing the vision of jointly tapped wind potential in the North Sea.

Amprion at the North Sea Summit in Ostend

The political North Sea Summit in Ostend is the follow-up meeting after the successful summit in Esbjerg in May 2022. Amprion CTO Dr Hendrik Neumann joins the discussions with Heads of States and Energy Ministers.

Links for more information

New class of offshore projects

Hybrid Interconnections as pathway to a meshed grid

The European Commission envisages an expansion of offshore wind capacity of up to 300 gigawatts (GW) by 2050 in its EU Strategy on offshore renewable energy. The European TSOs have the task to integrate this considerable and system-relevant amount of generation capacity into the adjacent transmission grid.

Wind power needs to be transmitted from the coast to the load centres in the central-west and south of Germany. This requires grid enhancement measures on land. In search for the most efficient solutions, near-load offshore grid connection points in Amprion's control area show great benefits in the German planning processes. Near-load grid connections are also especially promising candidates for innovative offshore interconnection concepts. These interconnections help to balance regions with different power needs as well as different wind resources thus reducing infrastructure needs on land. In detail, the overarching concept that Amprion is pursuing is a step-by-step and modular offshore interconnection of point-to-point HVDC systems at sea. The significant added value of such offshore interconnections materializes both on national and international level.

Offshore interconnections increase the system redundancy and thus the overall availability of the interconnected systems for the offshore wind farms. In case of an unscheduled unavailability of the infrastructure the wind energy flow can be rerouted through the interconnection to another onshore connection point and reduce expensive and CO2-intensive redispatch measures.

The benefits of a solely national offshore interconnection on congestion avoidance were investigated and considered in the current  NEP2037/2045 (2023) for the first time. As a result, two offshore interconnections of national systems were identified and proposed:

  • M272: Offshore-Interconnection between NOR-15-1 (grid connection point Kusenhorst) and NOR-16-1 (grid connection close to Büchen)
  • M273: Offshore-Interconnection between NOR-17-1 (grid connection point Rommerskirchen) and NOR-18-1 (grid connection close to Wiemersdorf)

Amprion graphic of an interconnected offshore grid: Schematic design of the interconnection of German offshore wind farms in the North Sea

Schematic design of the interconnection of German offshore wind farms in the North Sea

* Further national offshore interconnections are possible in the future if they are technologically feasible and economically efficient.

More renewable power generation can be integrated through the formation of international offshore interconnections

In summary, the main contribution to overall welfare is achieved with international connections by expanding net transfer capacities between market areas and thus promoting cross-border trade and EU market integration. So, the major target of so-called hybrid interconnections is to fulfil two purposes: the integration of offshore wind and the increase of net transfer capacities between market areas. The impact of international offshore interconnection has been assessed in a separate study in parallel with the NEP2037/2045 (2023). The study confirmed that more renewable generation can be integrated through the international offshore interconnection. This reduces the overall European demand for thermal generation, ultimately reducing system costs and CO2 emissions.

More on Amprion's offshore projects

BalWin1 & BalWin2

These two new offshore grid connection lines for North Sea wind farms will each transport 2 GW of wind energy

Dolwin4 & BorWin4

Bringing North Sea Wind Power on shore by 2028/29