A 450-mile subsea power cable linking the UK and Norway has started commercial operations, allowing the two countries to share renewable energy, National Grid said.
Water flowing from mountains to fjords and harnessed by hydropower stations in Norway will power British homes, as the world’s longest “interconnector” hooks up the two countries’ grids.
The cable will also allow excess wind power from Britain, when turbines are producing high levels of electricity in windy conditions but demand is low, to be exported to Norway to power homes there.
This will mean the Norwegian grid can effectively store energy, by conserving water in the Scandinavian country’s vast Blasjo reservoir which is used to feed hydropower plants, for use at another time.
The 1.6 billion Euro (£1.4 billion) North Sea Link, a joint venture between National Grid and Norwegian system operator Statnett, will help reduce the burning fossil fuels for power in the UK.
National Grid said it would help avoid 23 million tonnes of carbon emissions by 2030.
The 6in (15cm) wide cables which connect Blyth in Northumberland with the Norwegian village of Kvilldal, western Norway, will start by running with a maximum capacity of 700 megawatts (MW) and gradually increase to the link’s full capacity of 1,400 MW over a three month period.
When it is at full capacity, it will provide enough clean electricity to power 1.4 million homes, National Grid said.
UK Energy, Clean Growth and Climate Change Minister Greg Hands said: “As we prepare to host the UN Cop26 summit, this pioneering partnership shows first-hand how crucial international cooperation will be in helping us to deliver on our net zero ambitions and provide clean renewable energy to millions of UK homes.”
Cordi O’Hara, president of National Grid Ventures, said the North Sea Link was “a truly remarkable feat of engineering”.
“We had to go through mountains, fjords and across the North Sea to make this happen.
“But as we look forward to Cop26, North Sea Link is also a great example of two countries working together to maximise their renewable energy resources for mutual benefit.”
At Kvilldal, on the edge of a peaceful lake, a converter station has been built to enable cheap electricity generated by a hydropower plant situated deep inside the Norwegian hillside to be transmitted to the UK.
Cables from the converter station, which is linked up to the Norwegian grid next to the hydropower plant, have been laid through the lake and a tunnel to blast through the hill to the nearby fjord and then out to the North Sea.
Sub-sea cables carry the renewable power to another converter station at Blyth where it enters the British grid.
The scheme, which took six years, is the fifth interconnector for National Grid, which also operates links to Belgium, France and the Netherlands.
The company says that, by 2030, 90% of the power imported via the interconnectors will be from zero carbon sources.