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Mitsubishi Acquire Cables in UK Offshore Wind Farm

Mitsubishi will acquire power transmission cables for an offshore wind farm in the U.K., gaining a firmer foothold in a market expected to see more growth as Europe shuns nuclear energy in favor of renewables.

The Japanese trading house and U.K. fund HICL Infrastructure will spend 180 million pounds ($234 million) to buy transmission cables and substations spanning 26km between the 258-megawatt Burbo Bank Extension wind farm and the county of Denbighshire in northern Wales. The pair will operate the link for 20 years starting late this year.

Power generation and transmission in Europe are increasingly handled by different companies. The U.K. and Germany in particular have been working to separate operation of offshore wind farms and the cables that carry the electricity onshore. Authorities are auctioning off transmission assets once owned by generating companies.

More such sales are planned in the U.K., which is expected to have 23 gigawatts of offshore wind power — equivalent to more than 20 nuclear reactors — in operation by 2030. The European Union’s capacity is seen expanding to 66GW over the same period.

Since 2011, Mitsubishi has acquired roughly 900km of offshore power transmission cables across four sites in Germany and four in the U.K. The company is cultivating technology to ensure a stable flow of power to the grid as well as gaining operational know-how, including maintenance of undersea equipment and financial aspects such as insurance.

The 2011 Fukushima Daiichi disaster in Japan spurred a shift away from nuclear power in Europe. Germany plans to phase out atomic energy entirely by 2022, while France aims to lower its dependence on nuclear power from 70% of its electricity generation to 50%.

Hopes are high for renewables such as solar and wind as an alternative, particularly after the signing of the Paris climate change accord. Offshore wind farms are expected to take off in Europe as costs come down. Coastal waters remain relatively shallow for some distance in many areas.

Mitsubishi operates solar plants in Portugal and France, offshore wind farms in the Netherlands and Belgium, and onshore wind facilities in France. The company aims to continue tapping into growing demand for power generation and transmission in Europe while using its accumulated experience to expand into other markets. It is also considering a foray into cross-border electricity transmission.

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