The Xlinks Morocco-UK Power Project

October 12, 2022by greengeo0

The Xlinks Morocco-UK Power Project will be a new electricity generation facility entirely powered by solar and wind energy combined with a battery storage facility. Located in Morocco’s renewable energy rich region of Guelmim Oued Noun, it will be connected exclusively to Great Britain via 3,800km HVDC sub-sea cables.

This “first of a kind” project will generate 10.5GW of zero carbon electricity from the sun and wind to deliver 3.6GW of reliable energy for an average of 20+ hours a day. This is enough to provide low-cost, clean power to over 7 million British homes by 2030. Once complete, the project will be capable of supplying 8 percent of Great Britain’s electricity needs.

Alongside the consistent output from its solar panels and wind turbines, an onsite 20GWh/5GW battery facility will provide sufficient storage to reliably deliver each and every day, a dedicated, near-constant source of flexible and predictable clean energy for Britain, designed to complement the renewable energy already generated across the UK.

When domestic renewable energy generation in the United Kingdom drops due to low winds and short periods of sun, the project will harvest the benefits of long hours of sun in Morocco alongside the consistency of its convection Trade Winds, to provide a firm but flexible source of zero-carbon electricity.

Connected to Great Britain by undersea cables

Four cables, each 3,800km long, form the twin 1.8GW HVDC subsea cable systems that will follow the shallow water route from the Moroccan site to a grid location in Great Britain, passing Spain, Portugal, and France.

Agreement has been reached with National Grid for two 1.8GW connections in Devon. Voltage source convertor stations will enable the Xlinks project to secure high value balancing contracts with National Grid, and a HVDC Technical Feasibility study has been completed to validate reliability and cost.


Why Morocco?

Morocco has become, over the last 10 years, an international leader in the renewable energy. The country has been a forerunner in the development of large, innovative renewable energy projects worldwide, such as the Noor Ouarzazate Complex, which hold the largest concentrated solar power (CSP) project globally, or its wind integrated program.  Furthermore, the country has set up a solid legal framework to foster investments in the renewable energy field.

Most importantly, Morocco benefits from ideal solar and wind resources, required to develop renewable projects that could guarantee suitable power production throughout the year. It has the third highest Global Horizontal Irradiance (GHI) in North Africa, which is 20% greater than Spain’s GHI and over twice that of the UK. Furthermore, the shortest winter day still offers more than 10 hours of sunlight. This helps in providing production profiles that address the needs of the UK power market, especially during periods of low offshore wind production.

This project will rely on the solid Moroccan renewable energy expertise whilst supporting its leading role globally in the fight against climate change and providing further value to its natural resources and reinforcing its renewable energy industry. Xlinks is also consistent with the country’s energy export strategy, which is why it is at the heart of this project.


Why Great Britain?


The UK is also demonstrably actioning its commitment to the global ambition of achieving net zero emissions by 2050, both leading in the rapid decarbonization of its own economy, and by corralling international action to fulfil the Paris Climate Agreement. In 2019, zero carbon power sources in the United Kingdom outstripped fossil fuel power generation for the first time since the industrial revolution and by 2025, National Grid ESO will have transformed the way the electricity system operates to enable fossil fuel free periods. But to reach a fully decarbonized power sector by 2035, the UK must transform Great Britain’s energy system at pace, while ensuring it remains reliable and affordable for industry and households. Only then can its other carbon intensive sectors, such as transport and heating, decarbonize fast enough to achieve a net zero economy by 2050.

Offshore wind is core to a greener grid, but with wind generation comes a level of instability and system vulnerability. Output can vary greatly from week to week. Historical analysis (Thornton et al., 2017) matching UK wind supply with electricity demand underscores the fact that highest wind generation supply occurs during weakest electricity demand and vice versa. Periods of low generation can coincide with peaks in demand leading to price spikes. Similarly, peaks in generation at night create pressure on the transmission network.

Interconnectors facilitate the efficient cross-border trading of electricity. However, it is not clear that generation connected to our neighbours’ electricity networks will be available to British consumers at an affordable price when required. Remote generation and interconnection between distant geographic regions with inversely correlated weather systems will be more effective at addressing imbalances of supply and demand over longer time periods.


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