The startup, chaired by former Tesco CEO Sir Dave Lewis, plans to build the world’s longest subsea electrical cable between North Africa and the UK at 3,800 km.
Xlinks is proposing to complete a £16 billion Moroccan-UK link by the end of this year, providing enough power to power more than 7 million UK homes.
Lewis also said the project has raised £800m to build three production facilities in the UK to capitalize on the growing demand for electrical cables used in offshore wind farms and subsea interconnects.
“We have secured an area of about 1,500 square kilometers with the Moroccan government. . . The combined solar power plant, wind power plant and batteries on the land will produce about 10.5 gigawatts of electricity,” he told The Financial Times.
The project aims to produce 24/7 clean energy in Morocco via sun by day and wind by night, helping to bridge the gap with battery power. “It’s a renewable energy that works like a baseload,” Lewis said. “We are not intermittent.”
Part of the electricity is sent to a site in Devon via four submarine cables with a total capacity of 3.6 GW.
London-based and founded in 2018, Xlinks has not yet secured funding for its Morocco-UK link. It is led by CEO Simon Morrish, who is also the founder of the venture, Levitate Capital.
The use of subsea cables or interconnects has increased in recent years as it allows countries to trade electricity.
The UK recently completed the world’s longest existing interconnect between Norway and Northumberland in the northeast of England, costing around €2 billion and stretching 720 kilometers across the North Sea.
The rise of offshore wind in the UK has made the interconnect more attractive as it allows the UK to export electricity when it has a surplus and import it when it is needed.
However, the cables proposed by Xlinks have never been built, and previous attempts to build very long interconnects, such as IceLink between Iceland and Scotland, have failed to gain traction due to cost and permit barriers.
Tom Edwards, chief modeler for energy consulting firm Cornwall Insight, said importing electricity from Morocco into the UK may not be cost-competitive until it goes live because wind power costs fall.
“Key Challenge [for a project like this] In addition to the cost and delay, there is also the risk of overruns or rerouting when installing subsea cables,” said Edwards.
This month, a fire at a site at Kent that was part of the UK-French IFA link took the interconnector offline.
“Interconnectors play a big role and when they break, they cause big problems,” Edwards said.
Lewis said the company “does not seek subsidies from the government” but says it is now appealing to the project to qualify for the state’s “difference agreement” electricity rates, which only apply to electricity generated in the UK.
“The CFD we are looking for is £48 per person. [megawatt hour],” he said the project was economically viable. Ex Bulletin