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Norway Wants to Be Europe’s Battery

A new HVDC line will let Europe store more wind energy in Norway’s hydropower system

4 min read
Norway Wants to Be Europe’s Battery
The Viking Connection: A new high-voltage DC cable will connect Denmark to Norway.
Photo: Statnett

Norway’s hydropower reservoirs make up nearly half of Europe’s energy storage capacity. European grid operators need energy storage to cope with an ever-mounting, always-shifting torrent of wind power. See the connection? So does Norway. In December, engineers will energize a new subsea power cable that will begin to bridge the gap between need and opportunity, greatly expanding European power systems’ access to Norway’s hydropower-rich power grid.

The 240-kilometer cable across the Skagerrak Strait separating southern Norway and northern Denmark is Norway’s first new power link to Denmark since 1993. Called Skagerrak 4, its high-voltage direct current (HVDC) converters—the electronic units at either end of the line that transform AC into high-voltage DC and vice versa—are also the building blocks for more ambitious cables from Norway to wind-power heavyweights Germany and the United Kingdom. Construction on those is expected to commence during the coming year.

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An illustration of pipes going around from hot to cold behind a chinese animal statue on a pedestal.
MCKIBILLO

Jutting out from the coast of China’s Fujian province, Changbiao Island may seem small and unremarkable. It is anything but. This is where the China National Nuclear Corp. is building two fast-neutron nuclear breeder reactors, the first of which is slated to connect to the grid in 2023, the second in 2026. So China could start producing weapons-grade plutonium there very soon.

They are called breeder reactors because they produce more nuclear fuel than they consume. According to Chinese authorities, the ones on Changbiao are civilian power reactors, designed to generate 600 megawatts of electricity each, which amounts to a little more than 1 percent of the total capacity of China’s nuclear power sector. But each reactor could also yield up to 200 kilograms of weapons-grade plutonium each year, enough for about 50 nuclear warheads—which is making nuclear-arms-control experts in Western countries nervous.

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