By Patrick J. Kiger
In the German North Sea, 80 wind turbines now under construction will eventually generate enough power for some 400,000 homes. That power will travel via advanced cables buried along several miles of ocean floor, part of a growing move toward undersea transmission of electricity.
Submarine power cables have been around since the early 1800s. But for most of their history, such cables were used primarily to transmit electricity from conventional sources such as coal plants, either between countries or out to islands or oil platforms.
As recently as a decade ago, the submarine cable industry was in decline. That changed in the mid-2000s, as rising energy prices and concerns about climate change stimulated interest in developing offshore wind and more efficient transnational power grids.
The worldwide market for submarine electrical cables has surged over the past decade, according to industry observers, and is set to grow even more. Areport published in November 2013 by Navigant Research, a Boulder, Colorado-based firm that tracks the energy industry, predicts that global sales of high-voltage submarine power cables will nearly triple over the next decade, from $1.9 billion in 2014 to more than $5.3 billion in 2023.