The increasing share of renewables in the energy mix is prompting Paris and London to create very high capacity grid interconnections. VINCI Energies is responsible for a part of the infrastructure.

When it comes to energy, Brexit does not apply. On the contrary, the U.K. and France are planning to strengthen their energy ties by building a powerful electricity grid interconnector. The high voltage direct current (HVDC) undersea link will begin operating in 2020. This supergrid will operate at ± 320 kV DC and have a transmission rating of up to 1,000 MW between the two countries.

“One gigawatt is equal to the capacity of a nuclear power plant, enough to supply 500,000 households,” says Arnaud Gautier, Business Unit Manager of Omexom Major Projects (VINCI Energies), which is in charge of building part of the infrastructure.

The 230-km interconnector between southern England and northern France will provide large-scale electricity transmission capacity when required.

Arnaud Gautier explains that interconnection is being stepped up to accommodate the increasing generation of electricity from renewable sources of energy. Solar and wind energy sources may lie a long way away from the places where the electricity is consumed. Furthermore, he says, “Generation from renewables is by nature irregular and less predictable than generation in conventional power plants. There is therefore a need for energy highways to rapidly transmit electricity generated from renewables in order to ensure continuity of service for the consumer.”

The 230-km interconnector between southern England and northern France will be able to transfer large amounts of electricity as needed. On the French side, Omexom Major Projects is responsible for building the AC/DC converter station. The business unit brings together the full range of expertise required for the VINCI project, in which VINCI Construction is responsible for civil engineering and VINCI Energies for electro-technical works.

Comprehensive coordination and local teams

Project manager Guillaume Romano emphasises the role of Omexom Major Projects as an integrator able to comprehensively coordinate a project on this scale, calling on the VINCI Group’s full existing range of local expertise and human resources. RTE, the French transmission system operator, working with its British counterpart, National Grid UK, to build the IFA 2 interconnector, particularly appreciates the use of locally-hired labour.

In addition to design-build turnkey construction of the building, VINCI is also in charge of the full implementation of the conversion process for our customer ABB. The large-scale project will use BIM (Building Information Modeling) to enhance efficiency, says Guillaume Romano. “VINCI’s BIM model is shared by all participants. In the design phase, it will enable us to identify interface issues between the many trades working on the project and subsequently it will facilitate monitoring via the DIGITAL SITE application”. The IFA 2 project also offers an opportunity to apply the Lean Management methodology, which optimises each stage of the works, in a large-scale project.

For VINCI Energies and for Omexom Major Projects, the Cross-Channel project, which calls on the complementary expertise of the VINCI Group, will make it possible to “capitalise on experience to benefit future energy transmission projects currently on the drawing board in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and beyond,” says Arnaud Gautier. The sun never sets on the supergrids.