Europe thinks ahead with super-grid for renewable energy

Nine European nations are banding together to make a $40 billion investment in a forward-thinking, super-grid to supply Europe’s future energy needs. The project offers an object lesson in what enlightened, big-picture, public investment in energy could look like in the US, where the antique power grid grows more decrepit and ineffectual by the hour.

The Breakthrough Institute describes the ambitious project this way:

It would connect turbines off the wind-lashed north coast of Scotland with Germany’s vast arrays of solar panels, and join the power of waves crashing on to the Belgian and Danish coasts with the hydro-electric dams nestled in Norway’s fjords: Europe’s first electricity grid dedicated to renewable power will become a political reality…,as nine countries formally draw up plans to link their clean energy projects around the North Sea.

The nine countries signed up are Germany, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Denmark, Sweden, Ireland and the UK. They hope to have the grid operational within the next decade.  It is seen as an essential step towards the European Union’s pledge to source 20 percent of its electricity from renewables by 2020, reports CNN  Tech.

The supergrid will also perform the task of a gigantic 30GW battery for Europe’s alternative and clean energy, reports Renewable Energy.

This grid will store electricity when energy demand is low. The North Sea grid would also operate as a spine of the future European electricity super-grid, where more energy will be produced from renewable energy sources. They are also trying to overcome the problem of unreliability associated with alternative energy. This supergird will have electricity available in all types of unpredictable weather, because at least one phenomenon of nature will be happening such as blowing wind, lapping waves or shiny sun.

“The North Sea grid would be the backbone of the future European electricity supergrid,” says Justin Wilkes, policy director for the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA).”This supergrid, which has support from scientists at the commission’s Institute for Energy (IE), and political backing from both the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, and Gordon Brown, would link huge solar farms in southern Europe – producing electricity either through photovoltaic cells, or by concentrating the sun’s heat to boil water and drive turbines – with marine, geothermal and wind projects elsewhere on the continent. Scientists at the IE have estimated it would require the capture of just 0.3% of the light falling on the Sahara and the deserts of the Middle East to meet all Europe’s energy needs.”

We in the US should watch this development closely. Wait, let’s not merely watch; let’s learn from it and move our own country toward a similarly rational, national commitment to renewable energy and a modern power grid.