3543
Views

Morocco-to-UK Cable Project Plans to Order its Own Cable-Layer

cable-layer
Illustration courtesy XLCC

Published Feb 27, 2024 3:53 PM by The Maritime Executive

A British renewable-power company is on track to order a superlarge cable-lay vessel for installation of one of the world's longest subsea power cable projects.

The Xlinks Morocco-UK Power Project will be among longest power transmission links in the world, thanks to a circuitous route that hugs the coastlines of Portugal, Spain and France. The project requires four parallel HVDC cables to carry about 3.6 GW of power capacity in two 1.8 GW links. With a route length of 2,500 miles, the total length of wire comes to about 10,000 miles.  

The power will come from an 11.5 GW solar/wind project in Morocco, buffered by a 22 GWh battery storage bank. The concept is to provide dispatchable power for up to eight percent of the UK's electricity demand, filling in gaps in Britain's local wind and solar generation. The big selling point is that as expensive as it will be - $25 billion all-in - it will still be far cheaper than a new nuclear power plant of equivalent capacity. 

A sister company, XLCC, is building a cable manufacturing plant in Scotland to creat the massive quantities of HVDC cable required for the project. The same firm is planning to order a cable-layer with the capacity to install it, and the award to build it is expected later this year. It will be one of the largest vessels of its kind, and will be able to deploy two cables at a time as a bundled pair. In addition to deploying it for XLinks, XLCC plans to charter the vessel out to other developers on the global market.  

Thanks to these supply chain investments, XLinks' backers are planning to complete the project by 2030-31. 

"The real big bottleneck is supply chains. It's manufacturing the cable, and it's manufacturing converter stations. If it wasn't for those two things, we would be much, much earlier," XLinks founder and former CEO Simon Morrish told Recharge. (The company has recently appointed a former Shell executive, James Humfrey, to run the project as CEO.)

XLinks has the backing of Abu Dhabi's National Energy Company, French oil major TotalEnergies and UK-based utility Octopus Energy.