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UK National Grid: IceLink is feasible, achievable and viable

Economist-Iceland-UK-HVDCAccording to a recent article in the Schumpeter column of the Economist, the proposed IceLink power cable between Iceland and Britain seems to be getting a deservedly serious hearing.

The IceLink would be the longest undersea cable in the world, at at least 1,000 km, costing on current estimates billions of EUR.  According to the Economist It would take four years to construct the cable and would have a capacity of 1,000 MW. And the Economist is very positive about the project:

Iceland is in a unique position with regard to energy: it has in effect unlimited power, from both geothermal and hydro-electric. Apart from keeping the hardy Icelanders warm, it also runs aluminum smelters. But exporting electricty would give the small island economy a new source of income (the main other ones, since the collapse of the financial bubble, are fish and tourism).

HVDC-Cable-Iceland-Europe-map-slideThe Economist goes on by pointing out that the attraction of the IcLink for Britain is flexibility. The increasing dependence on wind energy, which produced a record ten percent of Britain’s power in last December (2013), may be questionable from an economic point of view. And it creates a technical difficulty too: if the wind drops, you need a speedy alternative source of power. When it blows strongly, you need somewhere to store it. Iceland’s stable geothermal- and hydro-electric generation is ideal for both purposes. But Britain has rather little hydro and close to none geothermal.

According to the Economist, the UK National Grid (the transmission operator for electricity and gas) likes the project, describing it as “Technically feasible…Politically achievable…Commercially viable”. Britain and Iceland signed an intergovernmental memorandum of understanding on the project in 2012. In June last year, the project won backing from an UK cross-party government advisory committee. Now the British government is waiting for the Icelandic side to come out with a firm proposal.

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