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26 May 2011, 13:55
Eurotunnel has unveiled plans to run an electricity link through the Channel Tunnel as part of efforts to bolster UK power supplies.
The proposed interconnector cable with France will help to smooth out supply volatility relating to offshore wind power, meaning that energy generated from places where the wind is blowing can be shared around.
The 500 megawatt (MW) cable will run in the existing service tunnel and connect at Sellindge in Kent on the UK side and the Les Mandarins substation near Coquelles in France.
Eurotunnel had a fire in one of its tunnels in 2008 but project leaders today said there was no risk to travellers as the cables will be 10cm wide and heavily insulated, while laying it in the service tunnel will make maintenance easier.
The project, which could take two years to build, will cost an estimated 250 million euros (#217 million) with Eurotunnel owning 49% and infrastructure-focused fund manager Star Capital the remaining 51%.
The new link will not have a major impact on total UK power usage, which at peak times in winter is 60,000MW.
However, concerns have been growing over the security of future UK electricity supplies because of an EU commitment to generate 20% of energy from renewable sources by 2020.
Wind power is seen as key to hitting that target but it has proved a volatile source, largely due to difficulties predicting when and where the wind will blow.
As well as this interconnector, to be called ElecLink, there are currently eight other interconnectors planned between the UK and parts of Europe, which could handle over 6,000MW.
Eurotunnel's new link will increase capacity across the Channel by 25%. UK grid operator National Grid already runs a 2,000MW link to France and a 1,000MW link to the Netherlands.
It could also help smooth differences in price between the two countries. Peak usage in France is one hour earlier than in Britain because of the time difference.
If it proves successful, the size of the cable could be increased to 1,000MW.