Irish renewables development company Airtricity has unveiled detailed plans for a proposed sub-sea supergrid that will link a series of offshore wind farms from the Mediterranean to the Baltic, taking in the eastern Atlantic and North Sea.

A Euro22 billion, 10GW offshore wind energy ‘foundation project’ in the North Sea involving the UK, Germany and the Netherlands has been proposed to launch the scheme, the largest offshore wind farm outlined for European waters to date.

Airtricity and T & D specialist ABB began work on the supergrid in September 2005 with the aim of designing a high-voltage HVDC power network to link national grids and deliver power from offshore wind farms.

The new grid is designed for two uses: carrying energy generated by wind turbines to suppliers and acting as a transmission network to deliver electricity around Europe, allowing its power markets to trade energy more efficiently and conferring a higher degree of supply security. In addition, the sheer geographical scale of the project will give Europe access to renewable energy at all times because ‘the wind will always be blowing somewhere on the grid’.

Airtricity’s chief executive, Eddie O’Connor, said at the launch of the project: “Supergrid and the 10 GW foundation project are practically and symbolically significant proposals to invest in, and release to Europe its most abundant primary energy resource.”

ABB’s HVDC Light technology is to be used for the project, having proved itself in similar applications elsewhere.

Airtricity launched Supergrid at a Parliamentary reception for MPs in the UK on Wednesday 10 May, an event designed to demonstrate the viability of the project. It is hoped that the venture will encourage the further development of wind turbine technologies and offer the industry attractive economies of scale in turbine production by its sheer scope and size.

Meanwhile, construction has been completed at the 90 MW Barrow offshore wind farm, located some 6 km off the South Cumbrian coast in the Irish Sea, with the last of 30 turbines of the r180 million development installed. Barrow, the UK’s newest offshore wind farm, is being developed by 50:50 joint owners Centrica and Danish energy group DONG Energy. Full commercial operations are due to commence in June.