A proposed infrastructure link connecting the Moroccan energy grid with the UK has been given special priority by net zero minister Claire Coutinho.
The Xlinks Morocco-UK Power Project is a proposal to create 10.5GW of renewable generation, 20GWh of battery storage and a 3.6GW high-voltage direct current interconnector to carry solar- and wind-generated electricity from Morocco to the UK.
As Morocco has far more consistent weather, it should provide consistent solar power to the UK, even in midwinter. The solar panels are expected to produce three times more energy than they would in the UK.
Coutinho has confirmed that the proposal has been given the ‘Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project’ status, which means it can bypass normal local planning requirements in a bid to get it built faster.
The designation is typically given to upcoming power plants, large renewable energy projects, new airports and major road projects.
Xlinks will carry out a further round of consultation on its plans before applying for a Development Consent Order next year.
Xlinks now needs to carry out further consultation with local authorities, statutory bodies and the community before applying to the secretary of state for energy security and net zero for planning permission.
Simon Morrish, Xlinks CEO, said: “This is a major milestone for our project, which provides certainty and clarity over the legal process and timescales for consenting to the project. The decision reflects the real difference that our project can make to the country’s climate commitments and energy security.
“Our next step will be to consult further with the community to meet the requirements of the Planning Act 2008. We are looking forward to another opportunity to discuss our proposals with people living in the area and will share more details of this later in the year.”
If built, the 3,800km cable will be the longest undersea power cable and would supply up to 7.5 per cent of the UK’s electricity consumption. The first phase of the project is expected to be operational in 2029, with the second phase due in 2031.
The undersea cable is planned to run from landfall near Tan-Tan in southern Morocco to National Grid connection points at Alverdiscott near the north coast of Devon, England.
The cable will follow the shallow water route from Morocco to Great Britain, going to a maximum depth of 700 metres.
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