The Wild Plan to Export Sun From the Sahara to the UK

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By the time Scotland’s Hunterston B nuclear power station closed in January of this year, its dual reactors had produced enough energy to power 1.8 million British homes for 46 years. It also provided over 500 jobs to people living in one of the country’s most deprived areas. Now, a project borne on the tide of a new era of energy production will take its place.

The new XLCC factory, to be built at Hunterston in 2023, will not generate electricity. Instead, the site’s 900 workers plan to create four high-voltage, direct current (HVDC) electricity cables that will stretch 3,800 km from Britain’s south coast, beneath the sea, to a patch of desert at ​​Guelmim Oued Noun in central Morocco. From there, they’ll provide enough energy to power 7 million British homes and 8 percent of the UK’s total electricity requirement with 10.5 gigawatts of Saharan sun and wind by 2030.

Richard Hardy, project director at Xlinks, which developed the proposal, says people were “taken aback” by its scale. “But when you really step back, it almost becomes obvious that so long as you can get the power back, the project makes sense,” he says.

HVDC technology has existed since 1954, when Sweden connected the Island of Gotland to its mainland grid. HVDC cables experience low energ...

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