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UK-Morocco renewables project ‘on track for 2030’

Person, Worker, Adult Creative Commons/USAID
Electricity generated by solar panels in Morocco will be transferred to the UK through the Atlantic Ocean
  • Xlinks project will supply electricity to 7m UK homes
  • New cable manufacturing plant approved
  • Taqa funding key to development of project

The $20 billion Xlinks Morocco-UK renewables project is “on track for completion in 2030”, the company’s CEO Simon Morrish has told AGBI, with approval now granted to build the facility that will manufacture the subsea cables critical to its development.

The cable operations will be overseen by XLCC which was set up by Xlinks in 2020.

XLCC was granted full planning permission in May to build the UK’s first high-voltage direct current (HVDC) subsea cable manufacturing facility in Hunterston, Scotland.

Work is due to start in early 2024, with cable production slated for 2026. 

“If that all goes to plan, then the Xlinks Morocco-UK project will be on track for completion by 2030,” Morrish said.

“We set up XLCC probably a year or so after Xlinks when we realised there just wasn’t enough cable supply in the market and how hard it was to get hold of [them].”

XLCC’s first order is for four 3,800km long HDVC cables – the world’s longest – needed to transfer renewable power generated in the Sahara to the UK as part of the Morocco-UK project.

Xlinks has been granted permission to build vast solar panel and wind farms in Morocco’s Guelmim-Oued Noun desert region and then transfer the power they generate to the UK through the Atlantic Ocean.  

The cables will come ashore in North Devon and be fed into Britain’s power network with the aim of supplying more than seven million homes with electricity by 2030 – equivalent to an estimated eight percent of the UK’s electricity needs.

Demand for HDVC cables is set to increase six-fold over the next seven years, as many countries look to expand their sources of renewable energy, according to XLCC.

Abu Dhabi National Energy Company (Taqa) in September entered into a $3.8 billion decarbonisation project with Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (Adnoc) to reduce the carbon footprint of Adnoc’s offshore operations by more than 30 percent using an HVDC subsea transmission network.  

Taqa, the UAE’s largest power producer, gave a substantial vote of confidence to the Xlinks’ Morocco-UK project in April with the announcement of AED113 million ($31 million) in funding.

“This investment offers the chance to bring both our infrastructure and renewable power expertise to the table to benefit the UK and Morocco,” Jasim Husain Thabet, Taqa’s group CEO and managing director, commented at the time.

Xlinks has since started deploying some of Taqa’s money.  

“Their funding is being used towards the continuing development of the project,” Morrish said.

“[It is being used for] more subsea surveys and procurement, legal, permitting, planning permission – all sorts of areas.”

Talks are also progressing with Xlinks and another European country about developing a second renewables project.

“That’s absolutely full steam ahead at the moment,” Morrish said, adding that he was optimistic he would be able to announce something soon.

“And we’re even starting conversations on a third one now.” Morrish said it would also be in Europe.

Xlinks, he said, still has more funding rounds planned for early next year, with the aim of achieving financial close towards the end of 2024.