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Case

Offshore wind

Power-to-x

Smart energy systems

+3

Energy island – the Baltic sea’s nodal point for intelligent energy

11. October 2022
Energy island with minimal environmental impact

Solution provider

Energinet

Energinet is an independent public enterprise owned by the Danish Ministry of Climate, Energy and Utilities. We own, operate and develop the transmission systems for electricity and natural gas in Denmark.

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Challenge

Both Denmark and the EU as a whole have established strong climate targets. Striving to become climate neutral by 2050, Denmark aims to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 70 per cent by 2030 (compared to 1990 levels) and meet its entire electricity needs with renewables by the same date. Similarly, the EU has a stated goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050 and aims to reduce its emissions by at least 55 % by 2050.

In its 2020 Offshore Renewable Energy strategy, the EU committed itself to installing at least 60 GW of offshore wind capacity by 2030, and 300 GW by 2050. Furthermore, Denmark, which has been a pioneer in the use of offshore wind energy, having constructed the world’s first offshore wind energy farm in 1991, is in the process of constructing three new offshore wind farms that will be in operation by 2030 at the latest. Once completed, the three offshore wind farms will have a combined generation of 2400 MW.

The expansive plans for offshore wind combined with aggressive climate targets signal that, in essence, offshore wind energy will become the backbone of the European energy system. Furthermore, the fact that Denmark and several other EU member states are home to the bulk of the world’s offshore wind farms, combined with the strong wind resources found in the North and Baltic seas, as well as other EU territorial waters, mean that tapping into the technological expertise and resources available can offer Europe a viable path to reach its climate targets.

However, achieving these ambitious targets will require a massive increase in installed offshore wind capacity and a scaling up of offshore wind sites and infrastructure. The size of the task can be illustrated by the fact that installed offshore wind capacity in Denmark currently amounts to 1.7 GW and 12 GW for the EU as a whole.

 

Solution

In May 2020, the Danish government unveiled the first tranche of its so-called Climate Plan. An extension of the Danish government’s landmark target to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 70 % by 2030, Denmark’s climate plan is intended to chart a path for achieving the reductions.

The most notable and ground-breaking feature of the plan was the announcement to establish the world’s first two energy islands by 2030. While offshore wind farms have hitherto functioned as individual entities that supply electricity to one specific region or country, energy islands will act as a hub for electricity generation from multiple offshore wind farms. They do so by collecting and distributing electricity between countries connected by an electricity grid.

One of the islands, which will be located in the North Sea, is to take the form of either an artificial island or platform that will need to be constructed. Serving as a hub for offshore wind farms, the island will encompass a total capacity of 3 GW and potentially up to 10 GW in the future. Once completed, the island is intended to supply Denmark and the Netherlands with green electricity. Currently, feasibility studies are underway to select the optimal location of the island in the North Sea. Selection criteria include issues such as existing nature, environmental preservation, available space in terms of shipping routes etc., and whether it is financially viable to do so.

The other island, which will be located in the Baltic Sea, will utilise the physical island of Bornholm as the hub for collecting, converting and transmitting power from offshore wind farms to Denmark and other countries. The offshore wind farms associated with the planned hub in Bornholm will allow for a total generation capacity of 2 GW.

In December 2020, Denmark, Germany, and the Netherlands signed joint cooperation agreements concerning energy islands and the expansion of offshore wind power in the North Sea and the Baltic Sea.

Locating one of the first energy islands on Bornholm possesses several advantages. Firstly, with its Bright, Green Island strategy, Bornholm is intent on becoming an ultra-sustainable area. The island is already working towards achieving carbon-neutral energy production by 2025, recycling all waste by 2032 and becoming free of fossil fuels by 2040. Secondly, Bornholm is easy to access and possesses robust transport networks and infrastructure. Thirdly, the island has already functioned as a test zone for several innovative energy projects, and its experience as a living laboratory means that once the solutions have been developed on Bornholm, they can be replicated on the energy island in the North Sea and on other future energy islands – not only in Denmark, but also abroad.

In January 2021, the Danish transmission system operator, Energinet, and its German counterpart, 50Hertz, signed a cooperation agreement to conduct studies regarding the viability of constructing an electric cable connection between the two countries via the energy island to be located on Bornholm. If successful, a hybrid interconnector built on Bornholm would connect the Danish and German power grids, so that the power generated by the offshore wind farms can be fed to the hub and then dispersed to the two countries’ grids.  It is expected that connections to other countries will be developed in the future.

Result

The energy islands will be the largest infrastructure project to take place in Danish history. More importantly, they signal a new epoch in the use of offshore wind energy, where offshore wind farms are no longer national projects, but instead, examples of transnational cooperation.

The large-scale power generation that the islands will enable will play a huge role in decarbonising Europe’s electricity generation and assist it in meeting its climate targets. When operations commence in 2030, the energy islands will provide approximately 5 GW of green electricity, which corresponds to the average power consumption of five million households. Expansion of the artificial island in the North Sea will allow for a total of 12 GW of green power to be generated, which will be sufficient to meet the average electricity consumption of 12 million households.

Specifically, the energy island on Bornholm will supply more than 2 GW of electricity, which corresponds to the average consumption of more than 2 million households. However, the Danish government has asked the Danish TSO, Energinet, to expand the scope of the feasibility study to assess the possibility of expanding the project borders in order to accommodate 3 GW instead of the original 2 GW. A new political agreement will be required if the extra 1 GW is to become a reality.

The energy islands will also deliver major benefits in terms of jobs and growth. For example, it is estimated that each new offshore wind turbine generates €15m of economic activity[1]. Furthermore, a report by the Danish consultancy COWI[2] estimates that up to 400 jobs will be created during the construction phase of the energy island on Bornholm, while 100 operation and maintenance jobs will be created after the island commences operations in 2030.

Furthermore, the energy islands will allow for more efficient utilisation of far offshore wind resources, and thus create room for significantly more offshore wind in the Danish and European energy system. In addition, it can contribute to reducing investments in transmission cables and grid reinforcements on land.

The long-term aim of the energy islands is to convert the green energy they produce into green hydrogen and carbon-neutral fuels in a process known as Power-to-X that can be used to decarbonise the traditionally hard to abate sectors such as aviation, shipping and heavy transport. The location of Bornholm means it could become a green refuelling station for the approximately 60,000 ships that sail past the island annually

[1] https://www.offshorewind.biz/2020/11/19/confirmed-eu-aims-for-300-gw-of-offshore-wind-by-2050/

[2] https://www.brk.dk/Nyheder/PublishingImages/Bornholms%20Regionskommunes%20slides.pdf

 

Photo credit: Gottlieb Paludan Architects