How Europe is Falling Behind

Eddie O’Connor, Founder

1100kV 12GW UHVDC World First in China

There was a time we Europeans used to lead.  The invention of HVDC in the early ‘50s, the Gedser machine in Denmark in the ‘80s, the Feed in Tariffs in the ’90s which allowed wind energy to begin the deployment cycle leading to the 10 MW turbine of today.  There was Vensys and Aloys Wobyn Enercon who piloted the direct drive machine. There is today’s world leading Vestas’ and Siemens’. All of these inventions and market structures led to a penetration of renewable energy onto the grid of 24% in Ireland, 39% in Denmark, 24% in Spain, 29% in Germany, etc.

We now have gone almost as far as we can on land with the deployment of wind energy.  Solar in the Mediterranean basin can be done on land, but the grids to fully harness the resource don’t exist. We may be reaching the end of a European creative cycle.

China in the meantime has taken a decisive lead in the renewable products of the future. We see the EU belatedly trying to catch up with batteries. The EU has 4% of global supply whereas China has 69%.

A crucial chance to lead is in the new offshore grid: The SuperGrid. It would allow us to capture the almost infinite offshore wind resource. It would also allow us to link the great northern wind resource with the huge solar resource in the Med basin – free local fuel. But we see almost all European TSOs sleepwalking to limit their grid scope to one or sometimes two countries.

In the meantime the Chinese have installed a 12,000 MW, 1100 KV, 3000 km long UHVDC line. Their projects include MTDC installations and DC breakers. These key elements of MTDC networks are being developed in operation on projects such as Zhoushan (2016) and Zhang-Bei (2018). These key elements of the SuperGrid were proposed by us 15 years ago, and were in fact opposed by ENTSO-e. These key elements could be operating in Europe next year. If we choose to lead.