Devon’s Alverdiscott to be linked by 2,360-mile cable to solar and wind farm in Morocco – .

Devon’s Alverdiscott to be linked by 2,360-mile cable to solar and wind farm in Morocco – .

Little has happened in the small Devon village of Alverdiscott since passing Roman troops built a temporary camp there.

Recent census data shows that its population has only increased by five in a decade. And the 286 inhabitants of the village are, in some respects, not supporters of progress.

For centuries Alverdiscott has been pronounced “Alscott,” but since Victorian times, locals have stubbornly refused calls from cartographers to update its outdated spelling.

Now, however, sleepy Alverdiscott, near Barnstaple and near the North Devon coast, is emerging as the thrilling epicenter of an unprecedented global energy revolution.

Investors are raising staggering amounts of money to connect the village directly to North Africa using the world’s longest submarine power cable.

There are plans to bring wind and solar power 2,360 miles from Morocco to power 7 million UK homes by 2030.

Sleepy Alverdiscott, near Barnstaple and near the North Devon coast, will become the thrilling epicenter of an unprecedented global energy revolution

The £ 16bn venture aims to sidestep fundamental problems with Britain’s wind and solar power.

Our winds are unpredictable and tend to blow at times of the day when the demand for electricity is lowest. As for the British sun, well.

Meanwhile, in the Guelmim-Oued Noun region of Morocco, where green energy will be generated, reliable trade winds blow all year round.

Equally convenient, the wind speed at the Morocco site increases in the late afternoon and evening, coinciding with peak demand periods in the UK.

The sun also shines some 3,500 hours a year.

In contrast, Britain has on average only 1,500 hours of sunshine per year.

And because the sun is burning more intensely over North Africa, solar panels each produce about three times as much electricity there as in the UK, even in winter, when we need electricity the most for electricity. heating and light.

The Xlinks Morocco-UK power project involves the construction of an inordinate amount of new kits to generate and transport green energy.

This means covering 1,500 km² of Moroccan desert with solar panels, wind turbines and a huge battery storage unit.

And submarine cables made of copper or aluminum, and wrapped in polyethylene insulation, will bring the energy generated to Devon.

Four of these cables are needed, each threaded along a shallow water route through Spain, Portugal and France to Alverdiscott.

In the village, two 1.8 GW voltage source converter stations, which resemble massive Meccano skeletons, will be built.

(1.8 GW is the planned generating capacity for the proposed Norfolk Vanguard wind farm in the North Sea, which would consist of 180 turbines measuring up to 1,150 feet high.)

The £ 16bn venture aims to sidestep fundamental problems with Britain’s wind and solar power. Pictured: A huge solar power plant in Ouarzazate, Morocco

Each new converter station will cost around £ 75million and be the size of two football pitches.

And if their size doesn’t set them apart, a National Grid datasheet warns that the huge transformers at these stations “are located outdoors and can generate significant levels of audible noise.”

The converter stations are necessary because the green electricity is converted at the Morocco site from conventional high voltage alternating current (HVAC) to high voltage direct current (HVDC).

Simply put, they convert alternating current to direct current, like gigantic miniature railway transformers. Once the current reaches Alverdiscott, it is converted back to alternating current.

Why? Most power lines are AC, as are most electrical equipment. But for any distance over 300 miles, direct current is better because it is more efficient and reliable.

Carrying the energy of the African sun and wind to power British homes looks brilliant, if a bit fantastic.

It is reminiscent of Gulliver’s Travel Professor who plans to extract the sun’s rays from cucumbers, to bottle them and sell them in winter.

But it is absolutely serious. The vast project is led by former Tesco boss Sir David Lewis. Alverdiscott converter stations have already been licensed to connect to the UK electricity grid by National Grid (which is understandably cautious of anyone doing so).

Sir David is also raising £ 800million to build three factories in the UK to meet growing demand for power cables used for offshore wind farms and subsea interconnects.

A spokesperson for Xlinks said of the Moroccan plan: “This ‘first of its kind’ project will generate 10.5 GW of carbon-free electricity from the sun and wind. “

Morocco has great expertise in this area, having invested heavily in renewable energies. It currently owns the largest concentrated solar power project in the world – the Noor plant in the Agadir region.

The country already sells electricity from solar energy. Its exports to Spain are via submarine cables just like – but much shorter than – those offered for Great Britain.

The use of these cables, or interconnectors, has increased in recent years as they allow countries to exchange electricity.

Last week, the Financial Times reported how the UK recently completed the world’s longest existing interconnector, between Norway and Northumberland in north-east England.

It cost around £ 1.7 billion and stretches 450 miles across the North Sea.

However, the cost and logistics of laying a cable for as long as Xlinks expects is a whole different matter.

There is also the question of how green the project really is, given the enormous amount of construction, equipment and infrastructure, such as cabling, involved.

A spokesperson for the company admits that although the costs of the entire project have been calculated, “currently the life cycle CO2 emissions of the Xlinks Morocco – UK project have not yet been calculated. “.

She argues, however, that: “Xlinks wants to be part of the global effort to stop global warming, and as such, the technologies and locations that the project uses will be chosen to avoid environmental damage and to the livelihoods of local communities. ‘

Some experts are worried. In February, environmental researchers warned in The Conversation that covering Morocco with massive solar farms could actually increase global warming.

They say solar panels reflect more heat from the sun back into the environment than the desert ground they cover.

This could raise local temperatures up to 2.5 ° C, they add, and have global ripple effects, such as disrupting rainfall across the world, even causing drought in the Amazon rainforests.

Yet all of this is offset by the UK’s urgent need for energy security, especially as it increasingly relies on renewables.

Britain’s vulnerability here was exposed last month, when UK electricity prices hit 11 times normal levels.

The record was caused by a tightening of the gas supply chain and a lack of wind power to power the turbines.

Of particular concern is our dependence on a Russian-dominated European gas supply.

Last month, Russia was accused of raising gas prices in a bid to undermine the economic recovery of Britain and the EU after the Covid-19 pandemic.

More than 40 MEPs signed a letter accusing Gazprom of “deliberate market manipulation” by raising gas prices to record levels.

The growing crisis has further fueled fears that the Kremlin might be able to exert massive leverage over Europe through its natural gas supply.

Xlinks argues that importing green electricity directly from Morocco, a country with a history of stability, will protect the UK from interference from foreign fuels and “price hikes”, or sudden price hikes, that whether by the Russians or our neighbors in the EU.

“The electricity generated will be transmitted directly to the UK without connection to Moroccan, Spanish, Portuguese or French transmission networks,” he said.

“This gives assurance that no matter what, Britain will have exclusive access to reliable energy from Moroccan wind and solar resources. “

So far, none of these global power games have made the headlines of Alverdiscott’s parish bulletin, The Local Rag.

David Potter, its deputy editor, who lives 100 meters from the village’s current modest electrical substation, is rather puzzled by the prospect.

“It sounds weird,” he says. “We weren’t told anything. And no one here seems to know anything about it.

“As a neighbor told me yesterday, if the news had come in April, we would have read it as a joke. As it stands, we are really in the dark.


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