Published: 10:52, 31 January 2019
| Updated: 13:30, 31 January 2019
A pioneering link to share electricity between Belgium and the UK has gone live overnight.
Known as the Nemo Link, it sees a mix of undersea and underground cables between the two nations in order to share electricity to meet demand.
Capable of delivering 1,000 MW of electricity - enough to power half a million homes - in either direction, it links Herdersburg, near Bruges to a substation at Richborough, on the site of the former power station, north of Sandwich.
The power is then transported via a string of new pylons to Canterbury - known as the Richborough Connection.
It, in turn, is then fed into the National Grid.
During the construction of Nemo Link, teams were faced with several challenges including finding more than 1,200 potential explosives on the seabed and beaches. Many of these dated back to the Second World War and had to be detonated by Royal Navy dive teams.
Nemo Link, a joint venture between National Grid and Belgian transmission system operator Elia, went live at midnight.
John Pettigrew, chief executive officer of National Grid, said: “We’re delighted that Nemo Link and the Richborough Connection are now both fully operational and will play a key role in delivering cleaner energy to UK consumers, while also making supplies more secure and competitive.
"Interconnectors like Nemo Link are the perfect tool to move renewable energy from where it is produced to where it is needed most. By connecting the UK and Belgian electricity markets, we will also ensure customers have access to different sources of generation and lower priced electricity. This will mean that customers pay less for their energy.
“Complex engineering projects such as these require a huge amount of skill and dedication from those involved. To have delivered Nemo Link ahead of schedule and under budget is a fantastic achievement.”
Nemo Link is the first of four interconnector projects being developed, collectively representing a total investment by National Grid of £2.1 billion.
Since construction began in 2015 more than 1,400 engineers and project specialists have worked on the project with over 2.6 million hours spent on the project - excluding manufacturing.
In November, the company announced it had been given financial approval for the construction of the 1,400 megawatt Viking Link which will connect the UK with Denmark.
More than 750,000 man hours were spent building the new 20km overhead line, substations and associated works for the Richborough Connection.
A total of £200m was invested in two new high voltage substations and 60 new pylons between Richborough and Canterbury to carry the 260km of cables needed to join Nemo Link to National Grid’s transmission network.