Desert Electricity for the Island

In just a few years, the longest sub­ma­rine cable in the world is intend­ed to bring clean elec­tric­i­ty from Moroc­co to Great Britain and lead the island’s coun­tries into cli­mate-neu­tral­i­ty. HIGHVOLT test sys­tems help to make sure that the ener­gy also arrives there reli­ably.


he idea of bring­ing cli­mate-friend­ly elec­tric­i­ty from Africa to Europe has been around for a long time. Each day, more solar ener­gy than the world needs hits the Sahara sands. But in prac­tice, lit­tle has been done with it so far. The XLinks project is chang­ing this: Start­ing in 2030, renew­able elec­tric­i­ty will flow from Moroc­co to Great Britain. The island’s pow­er grid is to be decar­bonized by 2035, but domes­tic solar and wind pow­er are not enough to achieve this. By con­trast, in Moroc­co, the Sahara sun shines more than enough all year round, and the steady trade winds can also be relied upon. In addi­tion, this North African coun­try has become one of the lead­ing nations in renew­able ener­gy in recent years. Mas­sive solar ther­mal pow­er plants, wind farms, and solar parks have already been built, and there is still plen­ty of room for more in the sparse­ly pop­u­lat­ed desert regions

3,800 kilo­me­ters
is the length of the route
of the sub­ma­rine cable

Clean desert electricity

For the XLinks project, solar and wind pow­er plants with a total capac­i­ty of 10.5 gigawatts will be built on an area of 1,500 square kilo­me­ters in the Guelmim-Oued Noun region. Com­bined with a bat­tery stor­age facil­i­ty with a stor­age capac­i­ty of 20 gigawatt hours, once com­plet­ed it will ensure that ener­gy can flow reli­ably to far-away Great Britain for an aver­age of more than 20 hours per day, where it can be pro­vid­ed as base load. The elec­tric­i­ty would then cov­er eight per­cent of the country’s total demand. Four sub­ma­rine cables will have to be laid over a dis­tance of 3,800 kilo­me­ters past the Euro­pean main­land to bring the desert pow­er to the island using high-volt­age direct cur­rent tech­nol­o­gy.

10.5 gigawatts
of elec­tric­i­ty is gen­er­at­ed by the
wind and solar parks in Moroc­co

A new com­pa­ny has been found­ed specif­i­cal­ly for this mam­moth project in Hunter­ston, Scot­land: XLCC. It man­u­fac­tures the HVDC sub­ma­rine cables with alu­minum con­duc­tors and cross-linked poly­eth­yl­ene (XLPE) insu­la­tion and will also lay them on the sea floor.

20 kilometers of cable

In the future, the plant will man­u­fac­ture cable lengths of 20 kilo­me­ters in one piece. Using joints, these will then be con­nect­ed on the ship lay­ing them to form 100-kilo­me­ter sec­tions. The demands on the qual­i­ty of the cables are enor­mous, since once they are sunk to the bot­tom of the sea it is next to impos­si­ble to make any lat­er repairs. There­fore, before they are loaded, it is nec­es­sary to check them for defects in the insu­la­tion and con­nect­ing joints. How­ev­er, there are only a few com­pa­nies that can build test­ing equip­ment for such cable lengths. So XLCC turned to HIGHVOLT in Dres­den, the world’s lead­ing sup­pli­er of high-volt­age and high-test sys­tems.

7 Mil­lion
British house­holds will be sup­plied
with elec­tric­i­ty in this man­ner

Anne Cholawa, project man­ag­er at HIGHVOLT and the per­son respon­si­ble for this largest order in the company’s his­to­ry to date, makes it clear: “Test­ing cables of this length is any­thing but triv­ial. The longer a cable or cable sys­tem is, the high­er the pow­er of the test sys­tem must be.” For test­ing DC and AC cables, pow­er fre­quen­cy with­stand volt­age tests based on the res­o­nance prin­ci­ple togeth­er with par­tial dis­charge mea­sure­ment is now the stan­dard. Since there is a world­wide trend to put longer and longer cables under water and con­ven­tion­al test sys­tems quick­ly reach their lim­its, HIGHVOLT devel­oped spe­cial extra-large reac­tors some years ago.

XXL-sized reactor

The XXL-sized reac­tor was devel­oped spe­cial­ly
for test­ing super-long cables.

They are the cen­ter­piece of the test sys­tem for super-long cables and in the res­o­nance test­ing method pro­vide four times the pow­er at just twice the vol­ume of pre­vi­ous reac­tors. “This means that the test sys­tem isn’t so huge despite the enor­mous pow­er,” says Cholawa. The test sys­tem is mod­u­lar­ly extend­able and could even test cable lengths of up to 200 kilo­me­ters.

This means that XLCC remains flex­i­ble for the future, since it also wants to sup­ply sub­ma­rine cables for oth­er megapro­jects beyond the XLinks project. Com­pa­ny CEO Alan Math­ers is sat­is­fied: “Our goal is to pro­vide the con­nec­tiv­i­ty need­ed for renew­able ener­gy to secure future glob­al ener­gy needs. Work­ing with HIGHVOLT and our oth­er expert part­ners will make it pos­si­ble for us to secure future glob­al ener­gy needs.” 

Your contacts

Do you have ques­tions about the project?
Dr. Mario Jochim are there for you:


Do you have ques­tions about the project?
Anna Cholawa are there for you:

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