Wind-fuelled 'supergrid' offers
clean power to Europe
Nov 25, 2007 - Paul Rodgers - The
An audacious proposal to build a 5,000-mile
electricity supergrid, stretching from Siberia to
Morocco and Egypt to Iceland, would slash Europe's
CO2 emissions by a quarter, scientists say.
The scheme would make the use of renewable
energy, particularly wind power, so reliable and cheap
that it would replace fossil fuels on an unprecedented
scale, serving 1.1 billion people in 50 countries.
Europe's 1.25bn tons of annual CO2 output from electricity
generation would be wiped out. High-voltage direct
current (HVDC) lines, up to 100 times as long as the
alternating current (AC) cables carried by the National
Grid's pylons, would form the system's main arteries.
While AC lines are the international standard, they
leak energy. HVDC lines are three times as efficient,
making them cost effective over distances above 50
Building the supergrid would require
an investment of ¿$80bn (£40bn), plus the cost of
the wind turbines – a fraction of the €1 trillion
the EU expects to pay for a 20 per cent reduction
of its carbon footprint by 2020. The average price
of the electricity generated would be just 4.6 euro
cents per kWh, competitive with today's rates, which
are likely to rise as fossil fuels run out.
Yet while several governments have expressed
interest, Britain is not among them, says the scientist
behind the proposal. "We have the technical abilities
to build such a supergrid within three to five years,"
said Dr Gregor Czisch, an energy systems expert at
the University of Kassel in Germany. "We just need
to commit to this big long-term strategy."
Many supporters of renewable energy
see it as a small-scale technology, but Dr Gordon
Edge of the British Wind Energy Association, said
the megaproject was essential. "European policy is
only just waking up to this," he said.
The supergrid would draw power from
massed turbines in a band of countries to Europe's
south and east that have above average wind potential,
feeding it to the industrialised centres of Europe.
The scale would overcome the biggest obstacle to wind
power – its unreliability. In smaller networks, such
as Britain's National Grid, calm weather could cut
production to zero. But the supergrid would cover
a region so large that the wind would always be blowing