Illustration; Source: SSEN Transmission

UK setting the stage for construction of $5 billion subsea green electricity superhighway in autumn

The development of a high voltage direct current (HVDC) cable connection, which is said to be the longest ever built in Great Britain, is moving forward, with the construction works slated to kick off this autumn. Once up and running, this electricity superhighway is expected to strengthen energy security and contribute to net zero aspirations, supporting the UK’s 50 GW offshore wind power target by 2030.

Illustration; Source: SSEN Transmission

Eastern Green Link 2 (EGL2), the joint venture between SSEN Transmission and National Grid, is an over 500 km subsea high voltage direct current superhighway that will transport renewable energy from Scotland to England via the North Sea. The EGL2 partners claim that significant progress has been made in the project’s development over the winter of 2023/24.

As the design for the Peterhead and Drax converter stations has moved ahead, these were submitted to the relevant councils for approval. As a result, the joint venture is on track to start construction works at Drax and Peterhead in autumn 2024, once the enabling works are complete.

EGL2 tucked a major milestone under its belt with Ofgem’s provisional approval of the expenditure required for the 525 kV 2 GW link, which is capable of carrying enough electricity to power nearly 2 million homes, running from Peterhead in northeast Scotland to Drax on the east coast of England.

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The total expected nominal investment for the project is around £4.3 billion (over $5.37 billion), which is perceived to be the single largest-ever investment in electricity transmission infrastructure in Great Britain and one of the most significant, strategic investments in energy infrastructure the country has seen in recent years. The project is expected to support hundreds of skilled jobs during the construction phase and thousands more across the wider economy.

Furthermore, the project team highlights the award of supply chain contracts to Hitachi Energy and BAM to construct converter stations at both Peterhead and Drax along with a separate cable manufacturing and installation contract awarded to Prysmian, as some of the strides made in progressing EGL2.

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In addition, a tree planting took place recently at Peterhead converter station, where over 150 hardy saplings were planted in a first step towards creating EGL2’s environmental legacy. The project team on site oversaw the planting of native alder, willow, hawthorn, and birch, which will create a habitat for local species over time and help to screen the site.

Moreover, the project team underlines that Prysmian is building a new cable manufacturing plant and cable-laying vessel for EGL2. While explaining that offshore unexploded ordnance surveys are in progress, scanning the marine environments to assess any potentially unexploded ones that may be present, the team elaborates that these critical surveys will ensure safe and precise cable routing.

As a result of these findings, Prysmian will be able to fine-tune the cable route, minimizing risks and ensuring a secure pathway for the installation, while removing the risk from the program’s critical path. The Scottish point of connection for EGL2 is in Peterhead, Aberdeenshire, where a new onshore converter station will be built and underground cabling will be installed from the converter station to landfall at Sandford Bay.

Timeline for Eastern Green Link 2 project

Regarding the marine cable route, subsea cabling will be installed from Sandford Bay, through Scottish and English waters to landfall at Fraisthorpe Sands, Bridlington England. The English point of connection entails an onshore underground cable, which will be installed from landfall at Fraisthorpe Sands, to a new onshore converter station built at Drax, North Yorkshire.

Ricky Saez, SSEN Transmission Project Director, commented: “EGL2 will play a critical role in unlocking Scotland’s renewable potential and supporting the UK’s future security of supply, while supporting thousands of jobs and delivering a lasting sustainability legacy. We are committed to keeping the public and our stakeholders informed of progress on this vital development as we work towards energisation towards the end of the decade.”

The EGL2 HVDC cable connection from Scotland to England consists of 436 km of submarine cable and 69 km of onshore cable. The new connection is scheduled to be operational in 2029. This project is part of the UK’s new network infrastructure, which is believed to be required for net zero.