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Dr. P. Espie*, A. Hardcastle*, M. Hook*

*Sinclair Knight Merz, UK,

Keywords: SQSS, Offshore Wind, HVDC.

The National Electricity Transmission System Security and

Quality of Supply Standard (NETS SQSS) details the
planning and operational design criteria applicable to both the
onshore and offshore electricity transmission systems,
including connections for offshore energy farms. If higher
capacity connection technology can be utilised for these
connections this will reduce the number of circuits required to
connect to the onshore network and significantly reduce
installation costs. This paper considers the appropriateness of
the planning limits within the NETS SQSS and analyses
opportunities for the development of these limits.

These plans include the development of up to 33 GW of

offshore wind farms across the UK developed in three
Rounds. Leasing for Round 1 commenced in April 2001 and
consists of a total of approximately 1 GW of offshore wind.
Round 2 was initiated in July 2003 and consists of
approximately 7 GW of projects, which are currently under
construction or within planning and consenting. Leasing for
Round 3 was announced in January 2010 and will likely
consist of 25 GW (a maximum of 32 GW has been consented
for this round) [2]. The Strategic Environmental Assessment
carried out by The Crown Estates consented the development
of the offshore renewable zones outlined in Table 1. This
table refers to the capacities expected to be developed in each
zone (although the consents allow greater capacities to be
developed in some cases).

1. Introduction





All (excluding
Triton Knoll
Moray firth
Firth of Forth
Dogger Bank



The UK, along with many other European and worldwide

countries is currently attempting to exploit the vast resource
potential of renewable generation as a means by which to
assist the transition to a low carbon economy. For the UK this
includes exploiting a potential 33GW of offshore renewable
energy generation, significant tranches of which it aims to
connect to the transmission grid by 2020. Given the maturity
of offshore renewable generation technologies the majority of
this generation will be provided by offshore wind farms. A
large amount of research is being carried out on high capacity
connection technologies for offshore wind farms to reduce
connection capital costs. However, a key design limitation is
the requirements posed by the NETS SQSS.
This paper discusses the size and location of potential
offshore renewable generation developments in UK territorial
waters and outlines the current state of the art technologies
that can be used to connect such generation. Expected trends
in connection architectures and technologies are also
discussed and reviewed in light of the present SQSS planning
limits. The impact of the current SQSS limits in terms of the
additional cost to the offshore renewable industry is
highlighted and a discussion presented on possible alternative
options to comply with and modify the current SQSS.

2. Background to Offshore Renewables

In response to EU Renewable energy directive of 2009 the
UK government has outlined its plans to achieve its target of
15% of energy generated from renewable sources by 2020.
This was the contribution determined by the directive in order
for the EU as a whole to achieve 20% of energy generation
from renewable sources in 2020 [1].


West IoW

SE Lincs
NE Scotland
E. Fife
NE England
E. Norfolk
SW Sussex


to Shore
<10 km
<30 km


32 km
28 km
50 km
160 km
~95 km


54 km
20 km

of 0.9
21 km
Atlantic Array Bristol
24 km
Irish Sea
Irish Sea
15 km
*Extensions have recently been awarded to some Round 1 and 2
wind farms providing a further 2GW of capacity

Table 1: CE SEA Consented Developments [3]

The early offshore renewable developments consented in UK
waters under the Round 1 are typically less than 10 km from
the coast line and less than 200 MW in size. Round 2
developments extend further into UK waters, with a
maximum offshore distance of around 30 km. Almost all are
of the order of several hundred MWs in size, with the
exception of Triton Knoll, which has a maximum lease
capacity of 1200 MW. Round 3 developments are typically an
order of magnitude greater than Round 2 developments, both
in terms of connection distance, which will be around or
exceed 100 km for Hornsea or Dogger Bank and also in terms
of capacity size, which is of the order of GW. Connection of

Round 3 developments will therefore pose significant new

technology challenges compared to the smaller Round 1 and
Round 2 developments given the connection distance and
Additionally, and importantly for the discussion presented in
this paper, as part of the UKs overall energy strategy and aim
to cut CO2 emissions, ten sites have been consented for the
construction of new nuclear power stations. These are
expected to have capacities up to 1800 MW with construction
expected to begin towards the end of this decade and
connection required from 2020.

3. SQSS History and Current Status

The NETS SQSS details standards which must be adopted in
the design of connections to the UK Transmission System.
The purpose of the standard, with respect to generation
connections, is to place limits on the amount of generation
capacity that can be secured and supplied through single
transmission equipment, with the express purpose of limiting
the impact on the transmission system through any loss of
generation capacity associated with transmission connection
With respect to offshore energy farms the current SQSS
details how:

With AC connections, the allowable infeed loss risk due

to a transformer outage is currently 50% of the offshore
grid entry capacity up to a maximum of the normal
infeed loss risk (1000 MW), and 1320 MW (infrequent
infeed loss risk) due to faults or outages of the HVAC
cable transmission circuit.
With HVDC connections, the allowable infeed loss risk
is currently 1000 MW (normal infeed loss risk) due to
faults or outages of the HVDC converter, and 1320 MW
(infrequent infeed loss risk) due to faults or outages of
HVDC cable transmission circuit.

The MW values are based on maintaining the following


Normal Infeed Loss Risk based on frequency response

to avoid a deviation of frequency greater than 0.5Hz.

Infrequent Infeed Loss Risk based on frequency

response to avoid a deviation of frequency greater than
0.5Hz for more than 30 seconds
In order to understand how the above limits have been
derived it is useful to consider the history of the SQSS in GB:

1970s A set of six standards are used by engineers

when designing the transmission system. Generation
connections were covered by the standard PLM-SP-1.
1990 These standards were adopted by National Grid
after privatisation.
1996 NGC SQSS developed. This was a single
document incorporating details from all six previous
standards. SPT and SHETL continued to use the
previous six standards but NGC use NGC SQSS.
2005 Ofgem request National Grid harmonise

standards used by NGC, SPT and SHETL into a single

document to be used by all three TOs. New document
known as GB SQSS.
2009 GB SQSS extended to include offshore
transmission details. This is the current NETS SQSS
used by the TOs.

The standard adopted by all three transmission companies

prior to 1996, PLM-SP-1, stated that the normal infeed loss
risk should be less than the size of the largest generator set on
the system and the infrequent infeed loss should be less than
the largest two generating sets on the system. At the time the
NGC SQSS was written, the largest generator set was
660 MW. To allow larger generator set sizes the normal
infeed loss risk was increased to 1000 MW when developing
the SQSS. The corresponding 1320 MW figure was used in
the SQSS to account for the 660MW nuclear units which
made up the base load generation, and kept at this figure to
avoid excessive reserve requirements [4] & [5].
It is evident from the above SQSS history that the generation
and transmission system development and operation at the
time the normal infeed loss risk and infrequent infeed loss
risk values were determined in the above standards has
changed significantly. Even at the time of UK electricity
supply industry privatisation in 1990 there was virtually no
renewable generation connected to the GB transmission
system, other than existing hydro-electric and pump storage
schemes. Whilst the latest version of the SQSS does consider
the recent development of offshore renewable generation,
when defining the current SQSS planning limits it was
assumed that the maximum capacity of an offshore power
park module (whole or part wind farm) would be 1500 MW
and the maximum distance offshore would be 100 km. It is
clear from this statement that the connection distances and
capacities considered adequately cover all UK Round 1 and
Round 2 site developments. However, from review of Table 1
it is evident that the current SQSS limits may not be
appropriate considerations for the Round 3 developments.
Recognising this issue, and also the potential for development
of new large nuclear generation (see Section 4), the GB SQSS
working group has begun to consider options for increasing
the current SQSS planning limits. GB SQSS Review Request
GSR007 [6] details how a potential modification of the SQSS
limits is to increase the normal infeed loss risk value to
1320 MW and increase the infrequent infeed loss risk to 1800
MW. However, even if this change is made it will still restrict
the maximum size of a single HVDC converter to 1320 MW,
potentially much less than the technology would be capable
of delivering.

4. State of the Art and Future Technology

To date UK Round 1 and 2 offshore wind farm connections
have been made at 33 kV or 132 kV, with 220 kV cables
likely to be utilised in the near future. The transmission
capacities of these cables are in the region of 30MVA,
180MVA and 250MVA respectively and are suited to these
developments which are of relatively small size and short
distance from shore. However, with the larger more distant

wind farms expected under Round 3 these types of cable

connections will not be suitable and new technologies will be
New and emerging connection technologies are allowing
greater capacities to be transferred in single transmission
connections efficiently across long distances. Technologies
with high capacity potential are 400kV AC cables, HVDC
and Gas Insulated Line (GIL). Figure 1 provides an
illustration of the potential connection capacity of these
emerging technologies.


400kV AC

SQSS Normal Infeed

UCTE Loss Limit

Transfer Capacity (MW)











Figure 1: Expected Growth in Export Connection

Technology Capacities
Increasing the capacity of AC connection solutions can be
achieved through the introduction of 400 kV cabling
technologies. At present this technology is limited to single
core cabling which substantially increases the installation
costs. However, if a trefoil laying technique or 3-core cable
was to be developed then capacities up to 700 MW per circuit
could be achieved. Alternatively a six phase cable set could
be laid in flat formation which would overcome the
significant electromagnetic issues normally present with this
subsea laying technique [7]. This technology will however
remain within SQSS limits and does not achieve the cost
savings that can be made with the DC technology outlined in
the following section.
At present HVDC Voltage Source Converter (VSC)
technology with which offshore wind farms are most likely to
be connected traditional current source converters (CSC)
are not particularly suited for offshore usage have
achievable converter capacities of 1000 MW with 500 MW
currently realised. New advances in converter technologies
and the potential uptake of materials such as silicon carbide or
diamond based components for power electronic devices
could see capacities of 3000 MW within the next 15 to 20
years. In order to transfer this increased converter capacity
into efficient connection designs the HVDC cable technology
must also advance. Currently the highest capacity offshore
HVDC cable technology is MIND (Mass-Impregnated NonDraining compound) at 1000 MW per pole with XLPE cable
available at lower transmission capacities (maximum
currently around 300 MW per pole) but preferred over MIND
cable due to lower costs and environmental considerations
Current voltage levels are seen at around 250kV for XLPE
and advances in materials and manufacturing is expected to
allow increased operating voltage levels up to 600 kV within

15 years which will support the 3000 MW converter

GIL is currently employed exclusively onshore and in short
distances. However, offshore feasibility studies are being
carried out [8] given some of the inherent benefits of the
technology, including low operating losses, low charging
capacitance and high transmission capacity, all of which
could make this technology attractive for high capacity, long
distance transmission. Current designs see GIL operating up
to 550kV and 4000A [9] resulting in a potential power
transfer capacity of at least 3800 MVA per circuit. The
installation and maintenance of such a circuit offshore is
currently prohibitively expense due to the requirement to
adopt gas pipeline laying or tunnel design. However, the
number of circuits to be laid and the works required at the
onshore landing and connection points would be greatly
reduced. Future developments of this technology for offshore
applications is most likely to focus on developing suitable
lower cost installation techniques, increasing the reliability
and lowering the maintenance cost associated with the
technology, rather than further advancements in power
transfer capacity.
Attraction of Higher Capacity Offshore Connections
The attractiveness of new high capacity connections for
offshore wind farms is based around economic and
environmental factors. The primary advantage is that a
reduced number of cables are required to bulk transport
energy from offshore locations. The introduction of 400 kV
AC cabling, with a likely limited capacity of 700 MW for
distances up to 80km, would provide little advantage over
near present HVDC technology in these aspects. However,
such an AC connection would not require relatively expensive
HVDC converter stations and consequently would be
expected to provide significant cost savings. On the other
hand GIL cabling, with high transfer capacity of 3800 MVA
has significant merit for bulk transport onshore and
potentially, if cost and reliability aspects can be significantly
improved, as an international interconnector utilising the
ENTSOE (European Network of Transmission system
Operators for Electricity, formerly UCTE) limits. For
offshore wind farm connections the advantages are limited as
a hub point would need to be created within wind farm zones
to which multiple wind farms could connect. This would
increase the connection cost which is already high due to the
complexity of installation. Significant capital cost would also
be required up-front as the hub would need to be installed and
commissioned before any generation could connect. It may be
difficult to raise finance for such a development when there
would be little guarantee of when individual wind farms
would connect, and hence revenue would be realised.
In terms of HVDC, the expected advances in technology
capacity will reduce the number of export cable connections
with relatively little change in the technology applied.
Because HVDC currently represents the most cost effective
way of increasing connection circuit capacity beyond existing
technology limits, this has been used exclusively in the
examples in the remainder of this paper. However if other

technologies, such as GIL, were to become cost effective and

provide higher connection capacities then the analysis
presented here would still apply to that technology.

connection would be in the region of 5 billion if full rated

export capacity connections were provided for the total

By taking an example of a 8 GW wind farm zone in the year

2020 it is possible to see the savings which a 2000 MW
connection (converter and bi-pole cable) could provide,
against those restricted by the proposed 1320 MW limit or
should this not be employed, the current 1000 MW limit. In
this illustrative example the connection distance is assumed to
be 200 km (based on typical expected cable length for Dogger
Bank development) and only capital costs are considered as
this is the dominant cost. Costs are based on 2010 equipment
capital costs (to nearest 100M).

Option 2 Increase SQSS limits to match expected

technology developments
With this option the SQSS planning limits would increase to
keep pace with technology developments, both for offshore
connection technologies but also generation technologies,
such as next generation nuclear plant or large supercritical
coal fired plants. For example, as HVDC technology
capabilities increases (both in terms of capacity and improved
reliability) the normal infeed loss risk could be raised to a
value higher than 1320 MW proposed under GSR007, such as
2000 MW. The infrequency infeed loss risk could also be
increased beyond the proposed 1800 MW, to 2000 MW or
even 2500 MW if generation and transmission technology
development so required.

Circuit Rating (MW)

Total Cost for

8GW (m)
Table 2: Capital Cost of High Capacity HVDC
Connection 8 GW Offshore Development
By increasing the capacity of the technology and reducing the
number of circuits required, substantial savings can be made.
In addition the environmental and economic impacts are also
lowered through the reduced number of onshore landing
points and onshore cable routes plus potentially reduced grid
connection work at onshore connection points. Some of these
factors, specifically onshore landing points, will likely restrict
the number of offshore developments which can connect and
come ashore at specific points across the UK coastline, thus
requiring an efficient use of the available shoreline.
Whilst it is recognised that designing the connection of an
offshore wind farm needs to consider more than the minimum
number of circuits required to deliver the given wind farm
maximum power output, export connection availability also
being a key constraint and performance metric of any
Offshore Transmission Owner (OFTO), the outlined example
is nonetheless sufficient to illustrate the potential savings
across the UK offshore renewable sector in developing more
efficient transmission system connection designs, exceeding
the current or proposed SQSS planning limits (see Figure 1).

5. Alternative Design of Export Connections

The illustrative example presented in Section 4 outlined how
the current and proposed SQSS planning limits for offshore
wind farm connections are expected to be surpassed by future
growth in export connection technology capacities. Three
options are now discussed that could be considered in regards
to SQSS planning limits and correlation with expected future
technology capacity limits.
Option 1 Apply current SQSS limits
This option would mean that the maximum capacity of a
single circuit (converter) would remain at 1000MW. In order
to connect an 8 GW offshore wind development (similar size
to Dogger Bank), this would require eight HVDC converter
platforms and export circuits. The estimated cost of such a

If a 2000 MW normal infeed loss risk was adopted for the

hypothetical 8 GW offshore wind development outlined only
four HVDC platforms and four HVDC bi-pole circuits would
be required. This would reduce the cost of connection by
approximately 25% (1.2 billion). It is not expected that the
overall availability of the 8 GW development would be much
different than a comparable connection with 1000 MW export
connections provided some level of interconnection is
available between adjacent converter platforms. SKMs own
internal analysis suggests that this would be cost effective in
any case in order to maximise revenue.
Under this option however, there is the potential that if a fault
occurs on one converter 2000 MW of generation will be
tripped from the transmission system if the wind farm is
operating at maximum output. This requires therefore that the
additional reserve generation is carried by conventional
thermal plant on the network, which carries an associated cost
Option 3 Develop connection designs above SQSS limits
The Amendment Report associated with GSR007 [6] outlines
how in relation to the operational implications associated with
higher SQSS planning limits that additional primary and
secondary response would be required .... at all times when at
least one such risk was actually present and generating on the
system. The cost of providing this reserve is considered in
the following section.
Implications of Higher Capacity Designs
Under Option 2 or 3 additional primary and operating reserve
generation would be required to ensure that the loss of a high
capacity offshore wind farm connection did not adversely
affect the system frequency response compared to the present
planning limits. The SQSS Amendment Report discusses the
cost of providing additional reserve generation, largely in the
context of the societal benefit of low carbon generation as a
means by which to offset the additional reserve costs
associated with higher SQSS planning limits. Adopting the
same costing approach as the GSR007 Amendment Report
the additional primary and operating reserve costs (based on

average 2006/07 and 2007/08 costs) for a 2000 MW offshore

wind farm connection with a single HVDC converter and bipole cable would be as outlined in Table 3.
Normal Infeed Loss Risk
1320 MW
1800 MW
Operating Reserve
24M p.a.
7M p.a.
Table 3: Additional Reserve Requirements 2000 MW
VSC HVDC Converter
As offshore wind farms have significantly lower annual
capacity factors than conventional generation the average
annual reserve requirement would be considerably lower. For
example, a typical offshore wind farm with a 40% capacity
factor may only operate above 66% of peak output for a third
of the year. Thus, for an individual 2000 MW offshore wind
farm with a single connection the additional reserve cost
could reduce to around 24 M p.a. with a 1320 MW normal
infeed loss risk (as per GSR007 proposal) or potentially as
low as 7 M p.a. if a higher 1800 MW infeed loss risk value
were adopted.
Alternatively, if once HVDC converters become
commonplace for offshore transmission connections and the
reliability of the converters is improved, it may be possible
for the converter failure rate to be considered infrequent, and
thus the 1800 MW infrequent infeed loss risk would apply to
such connections as proposed in GSR007 (essentially the
same risk level as subsea cables, which are already classed as
infrequent risks).
This analysis, when considered in the context of the 8 GW
hypothetical offshore development discussed earlier suggests
that with a potential cost saving of 1.2 billon in the
connection design, it may be cost effective to design the
connection to a higher design capacity than allowed under the
SQSS planning limits. Assuming interconnection between
the four 2 GW converter platforms then the additional reserve
generation costs, appropriately discounted over a twenty year
project life, are expected to be less than the overall capital
cost savings, making the design of higher capacity connection
financially attractive.

6. Next Steps
The analysis presented in this paper has shown that it may be
cost effective to adopt higher capacity connection designs for
offshore wind farms, once the technology capability exists,
than will be allowed under the proposed revised SQSS
planning limits. This could therefore provide an OFTO
responsible for operating the connection assets for a given
offshore wind farm or developments an alternative connection
design that may be more financially attractive.
Further work is however required to fully assess the financial
implications and conclusions found to date against a range of
economic and technology variables, including: cost of energy;
equipment capital costs; reserve generation costs; background
generation scenarios; OFTO rate of return, etc. This will
provide a much clearer picture of the extent and limitations of
the financial savings that could potentially result from higher
capacity offshore wind farm connection designs.

7. Conclusions
The review of transmission connection technologies presented
in this paper has shown that the technology capability for
offshore wind farm connections will progress to capacities
beyond the maximum limit outlined in the existing NETS
SQSS, and beyond the proposed revised SQSS limits. Our
preliminary analysis has shown that to design offshore
connections for the future Round 3 wind farms based on the
current SQSS limits would require much greater initial capital
costs than utilising the technologies which are under
development and expected to become available over the next
ten years, such as 2000 MW VSCs and HVDC cables.
This paper has shown how the additional reserve
requirements normally associated with increasing the infeed
loss limits may be relatively small in comparison with the
capital cost savings associated with higher capacity
connection designs, if consideration is given to the
intermittent nature of offshore wind generation. To fully
assess the impact of increasing the limits defined in the
SQSS, further studies would need to be carried out to
determine in more detail the financial and technological
impacts of carrying the reserve.
Other potential options also exist which have not been
covered by this paper such as the use of Smart Metering to
monitor generation output and match demand accordingly.
This would mean it would be possible to shed non-critical
demand for short periods or even to use battery charging
systems for electric vehicles as a source to provide response
to the frequency drop.

[1] European Parliament and the Council of the European
Union Directive 2008/28/EC on the promotion of the
use of energy from renewable sources, (2009).
[2] Dept. of Energy and Climate Change UK Renewable
Energy Strategy, (2009).
[3] The Crown Estates, Round 3 Offshore Wind Farms
[4] SQSS Review Group Review of Requited Boundary
Transfer Capability with Significant Volumes of
Intermittent Generation, pp. 43 44, (2010).
[5] Imperial College London, Dept of Energy and Climate
Change The Impact of Intermittent Generation on
Transmission Network Investment, pp.78 82, (2009).
[6] SQSS Review Group, Amendment Report: SQSS
Review Request GSR007 Review of Infeed Loss
Limits, (2009).
[7] H. Brakelmann, K. Burges. Transmission technologies
for collective offshore wind farm connecions, European
Wind Energy Conference, (2007).
[8] European Commission Trans European Energy Network
(TEN-E) Project, North Sea Network Using GIL
[9] Siemens Power Transmission and Distribution Leaflet
Gas-Insulated Transmission Line (GIL), (2010)