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Monday, 12 November, 2001, 10:03 GMT
Plan for 400m energy cable
Wind turbine, BBC
Wind power would be linked to the national grid
Plans to link wave and wind farms to the national grid by running a sub-sea cable down the west coast of Scotland and England are being examined by the UK Government.

It is estimated the scheme would cost about 400m. And the Minister for Energy, Brian Wilson, has described the economic implications of the proposal as "enormous".

Waves, BBC
Scotland's coastline offers a source of wave power
The west coast of Scotland has huge wind and wave resources.

However, there is no proper link from places like the Western Isles or Islay to the national grid.

The energy department has asked consultants PB Power Ltd to study the feasibility of running a sub-sea cable down the west coast of Britain.

This would connect the western seaboard of Scotland, the northwest of England, Northern Ireland, Wales and possibly the southwest of England to the national grid.

Mr Wilson predicted that the cost of laying the underwater cable would "largely" come from companies involved.

Possible routes

He said they were already used to funding big cable projects elsewhere to ensure their own security of supply.

"The rule of thumb is that it's about 1m a mile to lay a sub-sea cable," he told BBC Radio Scotland.

"We will have to look at whether there are any special conditions which would make it more expensive or more difficult."

The UK has huge untapped renewable resources but much of this potential cannot be fully utilised at present

Brian Wilson
If the consultants say the idea is economically and technically viable, a second study will be commissioned to examine possible routes in greater detail and look at how the cable would connect to the national grid.

"The UK has huge untapped renewable resources but much of this potential cannot be fully utilised at present because of weak or non-existent electricity infrastructure in some places," he said.

"The proposed interconnector is a possible means of capturing this power flow and transmitting it around the UK without encountering many of the inevitable environmental concerns which land-based transmissions would attract."

Renewable energy

And he added: "The western seaboard, from the Hebrides down to the West Country, could contribute far more of the country's energy needs if this infrastructure deficit could be overcome.

"The economic implications of these proposals are enormous."

The government wants to create a 1bn market for renewable energy by 2010. There are already a number of renewable energy projects along the west coast of Britain, with more planned for the future.

Earlier this year Orkney was chosen as the site to test pioneering wave power technology.

The Scottish Executive and Highlands and Islands Enterprise are spending 400,000 on the project.

Brian Wilson, BBC
Brian Wilson: Untapped resources
Stromness was selected from a shortlist of five sites, which also included two in the Western Isles, one on Islay and one in Caithness.

Consultants advising Highlands and Islands Enterprise said Stromness was the best site for the Scottish Marine Energy Test Centre because of its strong tidal currents and availability to existing power lines.

Scotland is also set to see the creation of the UK's biggest wind farm on moors 10 miles (16 kilometres) south of Glasgow.

The 150m Scottish Power project proposes to construct about 140 turbines on hills at Whitelee Forest, on Eaglesham Moor.

The company said the wind farm would be capable of generating enough electricity to power 150,000 homes.

The BBC's John Morrison
speaks to Brian Wilson MP, Minister for Energy
See also:

12 Nov 01 | UK
Q&A: Wind and wave power
27 Sep 01 | Scotland
UK 'first' power scheme launched
01 Aug 01 | Scotland
Plans unveiled for massive windfarm
23 Jul 01 | Scotland
Wave power test site chosen
30 Nov 00 | Scotland
Executive pledge on green energy
28 Mar 00 | Sci/Tech
UK lags on riding 'green wave'
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