BERGEN, Norway, May 16 (UPI) -- A high-voltage interconnector between Scotland and Norway can help forge a powerful renewable energy alliance between the nations, a Scottish leader says.
Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond, speaking Monday in Bergen, Norway, cited progress made on NorthConnect -- a planned venture to join the British and Scandinavian electricity grids -- hailing it as a means to find new markets for green energy.
He told the Norsk Industri renewables conference the undersea cable effort is part of a potentially sizable shared interest in green energy between the countries, characterized by Scotland's wind and wave resources and Norway's abundant hydroelectric power.
It could play a key role in creating a single, integrated European market for renewable energy, he said.
"The NorthConnect project is an excellent example of the kind of grid interconnection that will be needed across the continent to ensure we maximize the contribution of all European nations to reduce our reliance on imported fossil fuels, increase energy security and meet targets for reduced greenhouse gas emissions and renewable energy generation," Salmond said.
Environmental assessments are under way in Scotland and Norway for the 1.4 gigwatt link project, which would stretch 372 miles from at Peterhead in northeast Scotland to Samnanger, Norway.
The effort was awarded an $80,000 research grant last year from the Scottish European Green Energy Center.
Under the plans developed by the Swedish energy company Vattenfall and Scottish and Southern Energy, the connection would be two-way, enabling Scotland to tap Norway's hydropower resources when Scottish intermittent wind power supplies are low.
When Scotland's green energy supplies are abundant, they could be exported to customers throughout Europe via Norway's undersea high-voltage connection to the Netherlands.
Norway, meanwhile, would have access to the British Isles' renewable energy during periods of dry or freezing weather that cut into its own pump-storage hydro capacity.
The NorthConnect consortium, which includes entities owned by the cities of Oslo and Stavanger as well as the state-owned renewables company Statkraft, says it hopes to have the operational before 2020, the British trade journal Utility Week reported.
"Building on our hydro heritage and offshore energy engineering expertise gained from North Sea oil and gas, our nations are clearly both well-placed to make a huge contribution to Europe's green energy ambitions," Salmond said.
Also on the first minister's agenda were meetings with Bard Vegar Solhjell, Norway's minister of environmental affairs, and Oil and Energy Minister Ola Borten Moe.
The Scottish leader's visit was to be reciprocated by Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg's Thursday trip to Scotland's Shetland Islands.
There he is to officially open a museum commemorating the World War II "Shetland Bus" operation that aided the Norwegian resistance against Nazi Germany.
The electricity link and other renewable energy projects are important to further expanding Scotland's export market in Norway, trade officials added.
The Nordic nation has moved up quickly on Scotland's biggest list of export markets in the last few years -- rising from 10th largest in 2007 to sixth in 2010 with sales to the country reaching $1.3 billion.
"Scotland and Norway have strong historical links, which have been cemented by shared expertise and success in areas such as oil and gas and renewables, as well as the seafood industry," Scottish Development International Chief Executive Anne MacColl said Monday.