UK government scrutinizing British-Moroccan solar-wind interconnector


The UK government recently released “Powering Up Britain – Energy Security Plan,” a new energy strategy aimed at ensuring the energy independence of Great Britain.

For PV, the document sets a 2035 solar target of 70 GW and provides a series of generic actions to support the deployment of rooftop PV and large-scale solar installations. It does not provide specific information on the financial support for the proposed targets.

However, it does contain a brief reference to one of the most ambitious solar power supply projects ever developed on a global level – a 10.5 GW wind-solar project under development in Morocco by UK-based Xlinks. The project will be linked via a submarine cable to the UK power system.

“The government is interested in the Xlinks project, a proposed large scale onshore wind, solar and battery electricity generation site in Morocco that would exclusively supply power to the Great Britain grid via high voltage direct current subsea cables,” says the document. “The government is considering – without commitment – the viability and merits of the proposal to understand if it could contribute to the UK’s energy security.”

Xlinks CEO Simon Morrish told pv magazine that this hows the “enormous potential” of the project. He said it “will help the UK accelerate its transition to clean sources of power, increase energy security, reduce consumer bills, and achieve net zero.”

In May 2022, UK investment firm Octopus Energy signed an agreement with Xlinks to develop the huge facility. If built, it will include 7 GW of solar capacity and 3.5 GW of wind in Morocco. The facility will also be connected to 5 GW/20 GWh of battery storage.

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The wind-solar complex will be connected to the UK power network in Alverdiscott, Devon, and Pembroke via a 3,800-km high voltage direct current (HVDC) transmission line. The developer said this could include four separate cables, making it the longest subsea power transmission link in the world.

Xlinks plans to sell the power to the UK grid under a contract-for-difference scheme.

pv magazine print edition

The April issue of pv magazine, due out on Wednesday, takes a look at how the long-established link between solar and cannabis cultivation can help improve margins as medicinal and recreational use of the drug comes out of the weeds. We take a trip Down Under to examine why communities are rebelling against planned renewable energy zones perceived as being railroaded through without sufficient local consultation, and we consider the “solar crime” wave sweeping the UK and Europe.

“We are hoping to complete a bilateral negotiation with the UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS),” Morrish told pv magazine in April 2021, when the project was launched. “But we could also compete in future auctions if there was an allocation for this sort of project.”

However, without the contract-for-difference option, the project will have limited chances of being implemented.

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