Xlinks, the Billericay-based clean energy innovators planning a £16 billion venture to pipe solar and wind power from Morocco to Devon, have appointed multinational engineers WSP to secure HVDC connection and conversion equipment.

Four converter stations at either end of 2,400-mile long cables, themselves to be buried in the Atlantic coastal shelf off five nations, will be installed to minimise power loss from wind and solar farms covering land in southern Morocco equal to 200,000 football pitches.

From 2027 Xlink’s generation assets are planned to be pumping low carbon power equivalent at peak to 8% of UK national demand, at a combined rated potential of 10.5 GW.

Canadian-incorporated WSP will support procurement of converter stations in Britain and Morocco, as well as UK grid connections promised at Alverdiscott, near Barnstaple, plus connection to the generation assets in Morocco and related interface kit between the converter stations and four HVDC cables.

Combined capacity at the receiving end in north Devon will be 3.6GW.  The behemoth project’s intention, previously announced by Xlinks boss Simon Morrish, is to provide imported renewable power in baseload quantities, and for at least 20 hours per day.

Supplying up to 8% of UK consumption at peak output, Xlinks is expected to deliver electricity to Britain at £48 per MWh, comparable to offshore wind’s clearing prices achieved in the latest contracts for difference (CfD) reverse auctions.

Batteries totalling an unprecedented 20GWh/5GW in capacity will be divided between onshore wind and PV farms in southern Morocco’s Guelmim Oued Noun region, and the Devon landing point.

WSP’s appointment was completed after competitive bids.  The value of the contract has not been disclosed.

Ben Jones, WSP construction director for energy, said:  “We’re delighted to support Xlinks on what is a truly significant opportunity for the UK to increase its use of renewable energy and move away from fossil fuel dependency.

“A project of this magnitude will require a multi-disciplinary, collaborative approach and we’re excited to play an important part in its delivery”, said Jones.

Martin Croucher, Xlinks’ senior project manager for the HVDC converters, said: “The HVDC converter stations are a vital part of accomplishing the project. We are delighted to have WSP on board as technical advisors to support the tender process.”

Xlinks is planning its own dedicated cable manufacturing firm, dubbed XLCC, to deliver the mega-project.  A planning application has gone in, seeking conversion of the defunct Hunterston B power plant into a cable factory.   Across the Ayrshire plant and at Port Talbot in south Wales, approximately 1,350 new, permanent regional jobs are foreseen by 2024.

Discussions are also believed to be taking place for a third cable factory in north east England.

Nigel Williams was confirmed last year as Xlinks’ project director.  Williams oversaw North Sea Link, the world’s previous longest subsea interconnector, linking Blyth in Northumberland  and Rogaland, Norway, delivering it last year on time and under budget.

Octopus co-founder Greg Jackson had invested in Xlinks first as an individual, before in May committing unspecified amounts of his firm’s cash.


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